§ Debate resumed (according to Order) upon the Amendment moved by Viscount HALDANE to the Motion "That the Bill be now read 2a." The Amendment was as follows: To leave out all the words after "That" for the purpose of inserting the following words "this House is unwilling, especially in the absence of independent inquiry, to assent to legislation which would exclude the greater part of the people of England from effective influence in the affairs of the National Church as established by the Constitution, and which is so framed as to enable members of that Church to pass laws that may wholly change its character without adequate supervision by Parliament."
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I feel that in the resumption of the debate on this important measure the whole House, and certainly all those who take part in the debate, will entertain a feeling of profound responsibility. That responsibility was fully felt by my noble and learned friend who moved the Amendment, to which I am now speaking, founded upon his experience as Lord Chancellor, and even more, I think, upon the respect which he entertains for the most rev. Primate who is in charge of this Bill. My noble and learned friend does not belong to the. Church of England; and if he is so impressed, how much more must most of us be—perhaps some 90 per cent. of the total number of your Lordships' House—who belong to the Church of England and who desire to see legislation forwarded which may be for the good of 4 the Church, and also for the good of the nation.
It is clear that the basis on which this Bill is framed is the alleged difficulty of legislation concerning the Church of England. There may be—indeed there are—different reasons why the proposal for the creation of an Assembly of the Church would be favoured by many, but the existing obstacle, as it is called, to Church legislation constitutes the Causa causans of this measure as we see it. I desire to say one or two words on this aspect of the question. It is, of course, true that Church legislation shares the disabilities and difficulties which have attended the promotion of almost all legislation for many years past. It has been, as you know, often suggested that that state of things can only be remedied by a drastic measure of devolution or, if you like so to call it, of Home Rule. Meanwhile, an attempt has been made to meet the difficulty by modifying the procedure in another place by the creation of a number of large Committees to whom the detailed consideration of measures is entrusted upstairs. That system is on its trial. It has never so far been tried with reference to a Church Bill, but in passing its existence ought to be noted.
Then there are, besides, special causes which have militated against the passing of Church legislation through Parliament. One of them has been already mentioned by my noble and learned friend who moved this Amendment—namely, the fact that the Church has in many cases not been able to speak with one voice, or to advance on a united front. Marked differences of opinion have been exhibited by Churchmen, and the result has been that those who are not concerned with the Church, or who even have been hostile to it, have found an opportunity of pressing their views, with support from within the camp itself. All those whose recollection goes back to such measures as the abortive Benefices Bill of 1896 and to the measure which was passed in 1898 will recognise the truth of what I say. The same was true of the attempted Church Discipline legislation which began in 1899, which it was desired to pursue year after year after that, until the Royal Commission on Church Discipline was appointed in 1904.
That has been one undoubted obstacle. But there has been another which has operated during the last twenty-five years. Wisely or unwisely, rightly or wrongly, 5 the one principal preoccupation of those who are entitled to speak for the Church has been the maintenance, and if possible the strengthening, of the system of denominational schools. Needless to say, I am not going to touch on the merits of that question, but it cannot be disputed that in pressing that particular article so strongly the spokesmen for the Church have run up against a great deal of Non-conformist feeling in an aggravated form, largely because it was supposed that the. I effect of this legislation would be damaging to seine of the smaller Nonconformist communities in country districts. And so far as there has been any organised opposition to Church measures in another place it can, I think, be set down mainly to the fact that this particular subject has found such a prominent place in the Church legislation of the last twenty-five years. It may, of course, be said, and I think fairly, that the difficulty of carrying Church legislation through Parliament must indeed be great when successive Prime Ministers such as Mr. Gladstone, the late Lord Salisbury, and Mr. Balfour, have been loyal Churchmen keenly devoted to the cause of the Church as well as to the cause of religion, and if it were not possible for them to induce Parliament to hurry on that remedial Church legislation the reason can only be that the difficulties are insurmountable.
For the purposes of the argument let us admit that it is difficult to pass through Parliament legislation affecting the Church. What is the remedy which is proposed by the Bill? The system starts with the creation of a Church Assembly. That in itself is no new desire; for many years past, back into the last century, it was the hope of many earnest men that such an Assembly might be created. I recall some sentences from one of the well known Charges of Bishop Thirlwall, uttered in the year 1857. He said—A mode might be devised for gathering the sense both of the clergy and of the laity on questions affecting their common interests and objects as faithful members of her community. Such a representation of the Church, however complete, would be even less capable than Convocation now is of any action that would possess legal force.If not the effect of the Bill, at any rate the desire of some of its promoters is to go far beyond what Bishop Thirlwall said; and it is, I think, fair to quote his words because even if he were not the most prominent Churchman of the nineteenth century 6 there was certainly no sager mind among all the distinguished ecclesiastics of the Victorian Era. The members of the Assembly—as indeed one would suppose—are to be communicants of the Church elected by the diocesan conferences, which themselves are composed of communicants, and in turn are elected by the newly-formed parochial councils. The qualification of the parochial voters is less rigid. A parochial voter has to be baptised—
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I think my noble friend would like to state it correctly. The diocesan conferences are not to be elected by the parochial Church councils, except in exceptional cases where the dioceses are too big to admit of direct election at the local Church meeting.
THE MAEQUESS OF CREWE
I am much obliged to my noble friend for his correction, and he, of course, is perfectly accurate. To return to the parochial voter. The parochial voter has to be baptised, to be 18 years of age, and to be a declared member of the Church of England not belonging to any religious body not in communion with the Church. I think it is important to ask, Who exactly is excluded by these terms? Who is a person who does not belong to any religious body not in communion with the Church? As we know, historically there was a day when occasional conformity was recognised by Statute; but there has been in the recent past, and there still remains to a certain though probably to a diminished extent, not a little occasional conformity in our rural districts. There are not a few people who attend both church and chapel, and it is interesting to ask whether such persons would be excluded by the terms of the Bill.
The apparent intention is to imitate the Scottish system of what are known as Adherents, who are the electors in the Scottish Church, persons who are permanently connected with the congregation, and who are associated with its interests and work. But that appears to me a better definition than the exclusive one which is designed in the Report. A system which is founded upon negation I confess does not greatly appeal to many of us. One is almost reminded of the original Confession of Faith in Scotland of 1580, where a man had to declare that he had no share in opinions that were either Papist, or Arian, or Socinian, or Arminian. One does not exactly like to think of the would 7 be parochial voter being put through his or her facings as to the precise nature of the tie binding him or her to the National Church. I well know that this proposed franchise represents something of a compromise. It is desired by many to make this franchise, too, a communicant franchise; but if and when these parochial councils are framed (as I hope they will be) I trust that it will be found possible to introduce a definitely wider franchise than that which is proposed in the White Paper.
There is no need for me to remind your Lordships of what the powers and duties of the Church Assembly are going to be. They are fully set out and they have been described by the most rev. Primate and by other speakers. But I cannot help wondering whether the promoters of the Bill have not been somewhat misled by the existence and the powers of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was the direct result of the political confusion existing in that country. The Scots Parliament during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was a welter of contending factions, and the Scottish people, being a serious and practical race, determined to institute something of the nature of a parallel Parliament, possessing no small degree of temporal power, and place it in charge of the moral and social interests of the country so far as, in those days, such matters came before any Parliament or Assembly at all. That was the origin and purpose of the General Assembly in Scotland. It represented then, just as it represents now, the extreme sensitiveness of all Scottish religious bodies, whether they be Episcopal or Presbyterian, to any interference from the civil side—what Hallam somewhere describes as the "Presbyterian Hildebrandism of Scotland." If my description has been accurate there is no analogy at all between the conditions which brought into being, and have kept alive with all its influence, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the conditions in which it is proposed to institute this Assembly here.
For one moment I pause at the manner in which the proposition for the creation of this Assembly is laid before Parliament. We hear complaints sometimes in this House of legislation by reference—reference, that is, to other Acts of Parliament; but in this case we are bidden to refer, not to a Statute but to the Address presented 8 by the two Convocations to His Majesty on May 13 of this year. I know quite well that it is said that Convocations are bodies with a legal status, and therefore Parliament may reasonably take cognisance of their proceedings. Nor do I dispute that, technically, this is quite correct. But I would ask the promoters of the Bill whether, things being as they are, it is wise so to present this scheme to Parliament. If Parliament were to utter no protest against this form of legislation by reference I should expect that before very long some other body, say the Association of County Councils, might bring in a Bill and refer your Lordships and the other House to some document which they, undoubtedly possessing a legal status, have themselves issued. We might pass on to finding the Trades Union Congress introducing a Bill and referring Parliament to some series of resolutions of their own, or possibly to some pamphlet due to the industry of Mr. and Mrs. Webb. I hope that those who are responsible for the Bill will consider whether they would not be wiser to waive what I know are the objections they feel to subjecting, in appearance, the constitution of the Church to Parliamentary criticism, and inserting the contents of the White Paper as a schedule to the Bill. I do not believe myself that Parliament will agree to pass sub silentio a new constitution for the Established Church in this country.
I pass to the proposed relation of the Church Assembly to the civil power. That is, as you remember, to be carried out through the existence of what is called the Ecclesiastical Committee of twenty-five Privy Councillors. That body is to examine proposed legislation and to confer with the Legislative Committee of the Assembly, but—and this is important—it is only to report as and when the Assembly approves that it should do so. That is to say, I take it, that the terms of the report of this Committee have to be passed and approved by the Assembly.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My noble friend contradicts me. I daresay that later on I shall hear how and where I am wrong. One asks who these twenty-five gentlemen are to be. The most rev. Primate explained that they were to be by 9 no means all necessarily members of the Church of England, and he expressed a hope that my noble and learned friend Lord Haldane might form one of their number. My impression is that my noble and learned friend would be more at home as an elder in Edinburgh, but I am sure he appreciated, as indeed he said, the kindly wish of the Archbishop.
This body is to take what appears to me the singular step of advising that the Royal Assent be given to some measure of the Assembly before that measure has been laid before Parliament. I confess I do not quite succeed in appreciating the working of this Committee. I could understand it if it were a Committee appointed by and reporting to the Prime Minister on the lines of the Committee of Imperial Defence; but that is obviously not what is contemplated, because this body is to advise the Crown, and as we well know the Committee of imperial Defence does not aspire to any such distinction. It appears to be, so far as I can make out, a kind of substitute Cabinet, which is to advise the Crown, but apparently without much reference to the Prime Minister, although it is the creature of the Prime Minister, and presumably will change with the Government; it may be assumed that the Prime Minister of the day will nominate to it persons (or at any rate a majority of persons) who are in general agreement with his broad views upon Church questions.
I question myself whether the creation of such a body is feasible. My own view is that those who are in charge of the Bill will have to stop at the creation of that body now so familiar to us—an Advisory Committee; a body of weight and importance, not necessarily of Privy Councillors, because I do not see why, if a man is obviously fitted by character and experience for membership of such a Committee, it should be necessary to create him a Privy Councillor in order that he may sit on this Committee having the duty of advising the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary, or whatever Minister is to be responsible for the more rapid passage of Church measures through Parliament.
This brings me to the Parliamentary process which is suggested in the Bill. To my mind the attempt to proceed by a system parallel to that of Provisional Orders, with which we are so familiar, is a distinctly hopeful one, subject to the 10 reservations which I have already made regarding the way the Provisional Order would have to be presented. The intention of the Bill apparently is that the Provisional Order should come up once for all, and be either accepted or rejected as a whole by the House of Commons.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Or, as the noble Marquess reminds me, by this House. A somewhat lurid light is thrown upon the possibilities of this process by a phrase which I culled from the Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee. They contemplate a debate on the Motion that the Bill be presented for Royal Assent, either after eleven o'clock or a quarter past eight, if the Bill be important. But I wonder what is going to happen if we are to have anything like an examination of these Bills if they assume, as I think they are likely to assume, what is called an "omnibus" character. There is, and there can be, nothing to provide that each measure should deal only with one single subject. The word "measure," according to the definition in subsection (5) of Clause 1, means—A legislative measure intended to receive the. Royal Assent and to have effect as an Act of Parliament in accordance with the provisions of tins Act";and there is nothing to prevent it containing fifty or more clauses. Apparently there is no question of any power of amendment being left to Parliament; either to this House or to the other. When we consider how wide the powers given under the Bill are (that by subsection (6) of Clause 3)—A measure passed in accordance with this Act may relate to any matter concerning the Church of England, and may extend to the amendment or repeal in whole or in part of any Act of Parliament, including this Act,we shall see that the possibilities of the case are almost unlimited.
It appears to me that one of two things is likely to happen. Either important clauses in an omnibus measure will somehow at a late hour of the night get through Parliament per incuriam, or there will be a disposition to question this rapid and vague procedure, when a number of measures, most useful in part, might be vetoed or defeated in Parliament because they contain some clause to which the majority 11 of this House or the other House take exception. I believe it to be the universal belief of people who have had much to do with Government, either in this country or in other parts of the Empire, that there is nothing so useless and sterile as a mere veto; nothing of which the useful exercise is so difficult; and I believe, therefore, that the mere power of Parliamentary veto which is suggested in this Bill will not be found acceptable. I wonder whether the most re Primate would not direct his mind to the possibility of something like the procedure which has been brought to our notice in several recent Bills. I quote from one of the Health Bills. There it is said that the Order under the Bill shall not take effect until both Houses of Parliament have by Resolution approved the same, and shall take effect subject to any modifications and adaptations which may be agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament. I do not desire to bind anybody to that particular phraseology, but I hope that all the promoters of the Bill will consider whether some such alteration is not indispensable if Parliament is to look at the procedure as designed in the Bill.
Now, I ask what is the bearing of the creation of this Church Assembly on the two Convocations? The Convocations do not appear in the Bill, except so far as in the preamble their Address to His Majesty is alluded to. But I note that in paragraph 15 to the Appendix to the Address these words occur:—Nothing in this Constitution shall be deemed to diminish or derogate from any of the powers belonging to the Convocations of the Provinces of Canterbury and York or of any Home thereof.I confess I was under the impression and shall remain under the impression until I am contradicted, that the intention by the creation of this Assembly was to replace Convocation by the new body, and although, of course, this is in no sense apparent in the terms of the Bill, I cannot help thinking that in some minds at any rate there has been the hope that a time might come when for purely canonical legislation this new Ecclesiastical Committee might be able to obtain the Royal Assent without any recourse to Parliament at all. That would be an attempt to return to some of the traditions of Tudor times, when the Royal Assent meant something totally different from what it means at present, and if such a hope is nourished in any minds I do not believe it is likely to come to any real effect.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The real question that I desire to put, either to the right rev. Bench or to those noble friends of mine who are among the lay sponsors of this measure, is how far in their view it is susceptible of amendment, or whether it is so complete a structure in itself that its symmetry and meaning would be destroyed by alteration. Shall we be told that here is a highly organised structure in the animal kingdom, with a stiff backbone, armed with claws and teeth, although strictly for purposes of self-defence, whereas by such changes as I have indicated as possible in the Bill I shall be told you would be creating a formless, amorphous, spineless being with no more responsibility or power than an amoeba. I shall await with interest the reply of the promoters of the Bill to this question.
It may be, as I have said, that we shall be told that if you pull a brick out of the arch the whole thing will fall to pieces, and you must either pass this Bill as it stands or it is not worth passing at all. I hope myself that the reply will be on other lines. If it is on those lines I confess I should feel no choice except to support my noble and learned friend, who, although he has not moved the rejection of the Bill, has moved for an Inquiry. The most rev. Primate said, "After all, the facts are well known, and what is there to inquire into?" I do not believe myself that the time has come, or that there is any necessity, for any inquiry into the whole existing relations between Church and State. What I want to see inquired into, if there is to be an Inquiry, is the advisability of this particular, most carefully thought-out, and ingeniously designed process of legislating for the Church of England.
All those who have looked at the newspapers at all during the last few weeks must be aware that the plan as it is suggested runs sharply counter to the great body of Nonconformist feeling in this country; but by no means only that. It is not a question of the Church drawn up in battle array on one side and Nonconformity on the other. There is also, as is quite evident, a considerable body—I do net put it higher than that, but it is considerable in character as well as in numbers—among Churchmen of Evangelical and of Liberal opinions which regards, to put it mildly, this proposition with grave 13 suspicion. I therefore ask the promoters of the Bill, that being so, what chance do they suppose the measure has of becoming law in the form in which we now have it presented to us here?
I am one of those who believe that a larger measure of freedom for the Church need not necessarily mean the disestablishment of the Church. I do not believe myself that the disestablishment of the Church is generally demanded, although, as we know, it is strongly demanded by some. We are told in the beginning of this Report that national recognition of religion is not inconsistent with spiritual independence. With the form of spiritual independence which some expect and demand I think that it is, but I would also add that I do not believe that national recognition of religion depends solely on the existence of an Establishment.
Personally I welcome a measure of reform for the Church. It has been my fortune to know many distinguished Churchmen of all schools of thought. I myself was brought up in what I suppose would be called the Erastian atmosphere. It was my father who was the author of the saying to which the most rev. Primate took very natural exception in his speech, speaking of that department of the Civil Service known as the Church of England. That observation was no doubt humourously made, and I am sure that its author would not have intended that it was more than a part of the truth. But, my Lords, it is a part of the truth, and it is because that fact is denied by some that the opposition to this Bill is so strong. It is because the civil character of the Establishment is so strongly disputed by some Churchmen that these suspicions are entertained. My noble and learned friend, in moving this Amendment, exhibited a strong national objection to Prelacy; and I remember—I think it was in one of the debates in 1898—that the late Lord Salisbury spoke with deep regret but with equal conviction of the dread and distrust of the Episcopal office entertained by the people of this country. I rather doubt the existence of that as a wide or a deep-seated feeling. What is wide and what is deep-seated is a national dread of what our forefathers used to call priestcraft, and what our more polite and long-winded age now describes as sacerdotalism.
We could all produce a hundred evidences that there exist; the remarkable and abiding 14 suspicion that the average Englishman entertains of the Roman Catholic Church in spite of the respect and admiration which he feels for individuals who belong to it. Some of us remember the hubbub which was created by the intended public Eucharistic procession at Westminster some ten years ago, A great many of us pain fully remember how difficult it was to strike out of the Royal Declaration terms grossly offensive not only to Roman Catholics but to all sensible men. And, my Lords, it is because the fear exists, rightly or wrongly, in many quarters that the section, if that is the word, of the Anglican Church which can be described as sacerdotal, should somehow succeed in engrossing all the machinery and so directing the operations of the Church as a whole, that even the modified proposals of this Bill are regarded with fear by not a few. My Lords, that is a fact which the promoters of the Bill have to recognise. They must know that those sentiments are largely reflected in Parliament, to some extent I have no doubt in this House, and probably to a far greater extent in another place; but they need not be ashamed, I think, to trim their sails to this particular Bill. I, for myself, appeal to them—if I may so change the metaphor—unless the tree is going to come down altogether, to take up their printing knife with a bold hand and try to trim the measure into a shape in which it will be accepted by some whom they may think unwise or narrow-minded or bigoted. I believe that if the promoters of the Bill are willing to proceed in this spirit they may achieve much, and that without in any way forfeiting the confidence of the country—as they easily may do by drawing too rigid a line—they may succeed in widening the borders of our great National Church, and may hope and long continue to hope for the first place among the guardians of our national character and our guides in the paths of righteousness.
§ VISCOUNT FINLAY
My Lords, I crave the indulgence of the House for a short time while I state the grounds for entertaining the hope that this House will think fit to give this measure a Second Reading. While I say that, I certainly recognise the fact that some Amendments are probably necessary, and before I sit down I shall state what Amendments seem to me to be of importance. The grounds on which I desire that this Bill should pass into law 15 are, broadly speaking, those which were stated by the most rev. Primate in his speech in moving the Second Reading. You have the necessity of a lumber of measures from time to time for promoting the efficiency of the Church, and you have the broad fact, which I think is recognised by every one, that as things stand you cannot get these measures passed into law.
I venture to think that the speech of the most rev. Primate has not received any adequate answer. My noble and learned friend Viscount Haldane spoke very strongly against the Bill, and I may say that he revealed to me a totally unexpected side of his character, because he showed that he has some features very much in common with Sir Walter Scott's Davis Deans. Even Davie Deans himself could not have expressed more wholehearted dislike for, and abhorrence of, Prelacy than my noble and learned friend expressed. But, my Lords, is it right to say that the intention or effect of this Bill would be to set up an Episcopal aristocracy in control of the Church, to strengthen an Episcopal aristocracy, and to hand over the control of the Church to that aristocracy? I have looked at the Bill with attention, and I may almost say with anxious care, and I confess that I cannot find any traces of any such desire in any part of this measure. On the contrary, it seems to me to have been framed for the purpose of giving the laity of the Church greater control than they have at present, of affording a scheme for their doing what in them lies to promote the welfare of a great institution in whose welfare every one who loves his country must be interested.
My noble friend oposite not only said that this Bill would have the effect of strengthening an Episcopal aristocracy, but he also said that no one in Scotland would look at such a measure. Be it so. What is the use of saying that Scotland would not have a measure of this kind? The whole ecclesiastical history of Scotland is absolutely different from that of England. And it does not seem to me to advance the discussion of the subject one bit to say that Scotland would not look at this Bill. In Scotland, owing to the manner in which the Scottish Church grew up, you have an amount of spiritual independence which you have not had in England. This is an English Bill, which is to meet the wants of England with reference to the Church, and to remove certain obstructions which 16 prevent measures from passing which are considered, by those who are the best judges of the subject, to be necessary in the interests of the spiritual work of the Church.
I am not at all satisfied with the account which the noble Marquess opposite gave of the origin of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. It originated in a much more simple way. Every Church must have some government, and, constituted as the Church of Scotland always has been, it was necessary that the government should t the form of a General Assembly in which the clergy as well as the laity were represented. Some people say that the real remedy for the evils that attend the Church is Disestablishment. My Lords, I strongly object to Disestablishment, and I always have opposed it by every means in my power, and I always shall do so. But surely, whatever a man may think with regard to Disestablishment, he must recognise that as long as you have a Church established it is desirable that that Church should be efficient.
§ VISCOUNT FINLAY
I do not think that anyone would advocate the policy of fostering abuses in the Church, leaving the Church unreformed by way of ripening it for Disestablishment. Every one is at liberty to hold views in favour of Disestablishment if he pleases, but disestablishers have no vested interest in the abuses of the Church. Remove them. And, from my point of view, if the removal of these abuses is successful in postponing Disestablishment for ever and a day, it would be a very good thing indeed for the country. But that they should be removed, I think, every one, whatever his abstract views on the connection of Church and State may be, will agree; that is, that their removal is desirable.
The object of this Bill, as the most rev. Primate claimed, is to facilitate the passage of measures which are required in the interests of the Church, and which at present cannot be got through. It is to give to the laity of the Church, acting through Church bodies, a voice in the affairs and control of the Church, to give them the power of initiation with regard to the measures which are wanted for their reform, and to enable them to relieve Parliament to a great extent of work of 17 detail with regard to measures concerning the Church which would occupy a great deal of the time of Parliament, and for the discussion of which Parliament, perhaps, is not so well qualified as experts in these matters; while at the same time you reserve to Parliament the absolute right of saying whether the measure is, or is not, to become law.
The most rev. Primate gave a good many instances of measures which are urgently wanted but which cannot be got through at present. May I, with great diffidence, add one to the list which the most rev. Primate gave? I refer to the great desirability of, in some form, giving a voice to the people of the parish with regard to the ritual to be observed in their parish church. Many things may be lawful, in the sense of not being forbidden by law; there may be changes in ritual which are perfectly legal but which are not expedient in the particular parish, having regard to its history and to the opinions of the people, and the introduction of which might do mischief to the came of religion in the Church. Surely it is desirable, if it can be effected, that some voice should be given to the people of the parish on the question of whether changes should be made in the ritual of their parish church. They are most concerned in the matter, and I think I see in this Bill an organisation which may be useful for that purpose. I refer to the Parochial Church Councils. Of course, I am not going into any detail, but I do think that measures might be framed and passed enabling the Parochial Church Councils to exercise a most salutary effect in determining whether changes should be made in the ritual to which they had been accustomed.
There is another matter which I will just touch upon, and that is the possible utilisation of these Parochial Church Councils with reference to the fitness of the man who should be appointed to any vacancy in the parish church. It is a most important thing to know what man will suit the people. To my mind this is almost as important as the other matter to which I have just alluded. With regard to ritual, it is extremely important that you should give some means of ascertaining what the temper of the parish is, and whether a clergyman of a particular type will be the man who is most likely to do good in that particular parish.
I welcome the Bill. There are certain 18 Amendments which I think are very desirable, and I shall state very shortly two or three of those Amendments. The first, refers to the machinery of the Bill with regard to getting a measure which has been planned by the Assembly of the Church passed into law. That is contained in the fourth Clause of the Bill under the first head. The fourth Clause provides for the case of the Ecclesiastical Committee, which your Lordships have recently heard explained by the noble Marquess opposites reporting on a measure presented by the Legislative Committee. That report and the text of the measure are to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. The clause goes on—If the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have advised His Majesty to give his Royal Assent to the measure, then, unless within forty days either House, of Parliament shall direct to the contrary, such measure shall be presented to His Majesty' and shall have the force and effect of an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto.It seems important to observe, as that clause stands, that a measure which had been recommended by the Legislative Committee might become law simply because Parliament in the press of other business had not been able to give the time necessary to pass an Address upon the subject. I cannot think that satisfactory. I do not think that is an adequate maintenance of the control of Parliament, and I would suggest very respectfully to those who have been most interested in this. Bill that the measure should be amended by providing that the actual assent of both Houses of Parliament should be required to the measure which has been recommended by the Legislative Committee and submitted to Parliament for its approval. You must get the mind of Parliament brought to bear upon a measure, and when the mind of Parliament has been brought to bear upon it and Parliament has signified its approval, then the measure is ripe-for presentation to His Majesty for the Royal' Assent, if His Majesty so please.
It may be said, What is the advantage of that procedure as compared with the procedure which at present exists in Parliament? The advantage is enormous, because you get a complete measure submitted to Parliament in order that each House may with regard to that measure-simply "Yes" or "No." The real obstacle to getting measures affecting the Church through Parliament is the Com- 19 mittee stage and the possibility of a great deal of discussion upon points which, it may be, very few people really understand, although every one always considers himself competent to speak on any subject of that kind. If you get the measure put into shape by those who may be considered experts in the matter, then ask both Houses of Parliament to say "Yes" or "No," and if they both say "Yes," then let it be submitted to His Majesty for his approval and become law. The noble Marquess opposite referred to the danger of what are called "omnibus" Bills. If those interested in Church matters are wise the less they have to do with "omnibus" Bills in connection with this measure the better, although the most ordinary measure of common sense would secure that the particular danger, though it exists in theory, never took shape in practice. Parliamentary sanction would secure a really effective control of Parliament after its mind had been brought to bear upon the subject, but it would have another great advantage and that is this. His Majesty, in giving his assent to a particular measure, must be guided by advice. His Majesty is of course advised by his Ministers, but this Bill sets up the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council. Is the effect of the Bill intended to be that the advice of the Ecclesiastical Committee should dispense with the necessity of the advice of His Majesty's Ministers?
§ VISCOUNT FINLAY
That is the answer that I should expect, but I thought it ought to be made perfectly clear. Of course, if the consent of Ministers is to be necessary in the sense of their advising His Majesty what he is to do, then you obviate all possibility of a very unseemly difference of opinion between Ministers and the Ecclesiastical Committee by taking the measure through Parliament and presenting it to His Majesty only when it has Parliamentary sanction. The whole subject assumes a different aspect if that point is cleared up. I am very glad indeed to hear what my noble friend said in answer to the question which I put, and I cannot help very earnestly expressing the hope that the alteration which I have indicated may be introduced into the measure.
20 There is another point on which I must say a few words, and that is in reference to the constitution as contained in the appendix to the Report presented by Convocation. The clause contains that reference under the fourth head. "The constitution means the constitution of the Church Assembly set forth in the appendix to the Addresses presented by the Convocations of Canterbury and York to His Majesty as aforesaid." It is very unusual to ask Parliament to assent to a particular document which Parliament has to find by going through the records of some other Assembly, and I must say that in my opinion the Report which Parliament is asked to sanction ought to be scheduled to the Bill. I perfectly understand the reason why that course was avoided. It was desired that Parliament should not be invited to enter into details on the discussion of the constitution. But that reason is not a good one, because you must come to Parliament to ask it to sanction the constitution. The Bill does that. If so, you cannot possibly prevent Parliament from saying whether it accepts the constitution as it has been drafted or accepts it only subject to certain amendments. If that is so there is nothing gained by the very unusual course which has here been followed—a course which is extremely inconvenient, because Parliament likes to have under its eye what it is asked to do.
The third matter to which I desire to refer as requiring consideration with a view to amendment is with regard to the qualification of electors. That is contained in the Appendix to the Address presented by Convocation. It is in the Schedule, under Section 3, head 2, which defines who are the qualified electors of the parish, and the words are these—Qualified electors in a parish are the following lay members of the Church of England:—(1) Persons of eighteen years of age and upwards, of either sex resident in the parish who—(a) are baptised and declare that they are members of the Church of England and that they do not belong to any religious body which is not in communion with the Church of England.I need not read the other clauses, which are not material to the present purpose. It seems to me that the introduction of these last words, "who declare that they do not belong to any religious body which is not in communion with the Church of England" will cause great difficulties, and that these words are in themselves 21 undesirable. Who is there to decide what churches are in communion with the Church of England? It is a very difficult question, and I fancy that very different opinions are held by those who are most loyal members of the Church of England as to what other churches may be considered as in communion with the Church of England. You introduce a very thorny subject, and you provide no authority for determining it. But, further than that not only is it a most difficult question, but I think it is very undesirable to introduce a clause of that hind. Surely it is enough to say that the qualified electors are baptised persons who declare that they are members of the Church of England. Why impose a test in the way of a negation—a statement that you do not belong to another Christian Church, which many people may think is in communion with the Church of England but as to which different opinions may be held? Surely it is enough to rest upon the fact of baptism and the declaration of membership of the Church of. England, without introducing this further clause.
My reason for thinking this undesirable is that I happen to have been brought into contact with a case where people thoroughly devoted to the Church of England have been driven out of it owing to things which have taken place in their parish church. I will not mention the part of the country it was in. I was on a golfing holiday, and I went to the parish church for morning service on Easter Day. There was a handful of people present, and next day I happened to have a little conversation with the steward of the golf club, and I was amazed at the passion and feeling with which this man spoke on the subject. He said that he and all his family, his father and mother and all his connections, had been attached members of the Church of England, but they had been driven out of it, and had associated themselves with other religious bodies in the parish in consequence of changes which had been made. That man spoke with so much feeling that I cannot doubt that he meant what he said. He was most anxious that he should be able to go back to the Church of England.
There may be many such cases throughout the country. Are you to require from such people as a condition precedent to their taking their place in the organisation of the Church that they should sever their 22 connection with the religious body in which they have found refuge, when much against their will they were driven out of the Church of their fathers? I do hope that this particular provision will be eliminated. The title of the Assembly is "the National Assembly of the Church of England." Do let us have that title a reality. Let it be truly national, and let us make the definition no more exclusive than the necessities of the case demand. These do demand that there should be baptism and a declaration of adherence to the church. I submit to those in charge of the Bill that the necessities of the case do not demand more.
The only other observation I wish to make is with regard to the terms of the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Haldane has put upon the Paper. He proposes to substitute for the Motion before the House the following—This House is unwilling, especially in the absence of independent inquiry, to assent to legislation which would exclude the greater part of the people of England from effective influence in the affairs of the National Church as established by the Constitution, and which is so framed as to enable members of that Church to pass laws that may wholly change its character without adequate supervision by Parliament.I believe that both of those provisions will not stand the test of examination. This measure, so far from excluding the greater part of the people of England from influence in the affairs of the national Church, would increase their influence in the affairs of the national Church. The fear of an episcopal aristocracy is visionary. This Bill is not so framed as to enable members of that Church to pass laws that may wholly change its character without adequate supervision by Parliament. As I have said, I think the Bill with regard to Parliamentary supervision ought to be strengthened and amended, but that amendment may readily be made, and when that amendment is made I defy anyone to say that there is any attempt whatever to escape from complete and effective control by Parliament. On the whole I do ask your Lordships very respectfully to give this Bill a second reading, and what changes should be made in it can be afterwards considered.
THE LORD BISHOP OF MANCHESTER
My Lords, I expected that in following the noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down I should 23 find myself strongly in opposition to the plea which he was putting before your Lordships' House, but if it really is the case, as the noble and learned Viscount has told us, that the Bill before us is to be amended not only in its particular clauses but also in its references, if it really is the case that the most rev. Primate and the supporters of this Bill are prepared to submit to your Lordships' House the Constitution and the Assembly, then the whole scene will be entirely changed and the very point on which I most desire to insist in addressing your Lordships' House will have been gained. It is so important that I earnestly hope that some of the promoters of the Bill who follow me will make it quite plain whether they will consent that the Constitution and the Assembly shall be submitted to the judgment of your Lordships. I have reason to think that they may find a great difficulty in doing so.
I was a close follower of the consideration of this Bill when it was in Committee and I remember how carefully it was pointed out to us that the whole construction of the Constitution, of the Assembly, and of all other matters pertaining to it, should have no Parliamentary taint, should not in any way be subjected to the opinion of Parliament but should come entirely from the spirituality. Which is the line that is going to be taken? Are we being asked simply to make it easier for the spirituality, framing their own Constitution and managing things in their own way, to obtain the power to place Statutes upon the Statute Book of the Realm, or are they coming really and honestly to ask us to enable them to facilitate legislation in Parliament? That is the whole question.
My intention is to direct the thoughts of your Lordships almost entirely to the question of the Constitution and of the Assembly; because as for the clauses of the Bill itself they can easily be altered by way of amendment; but they are a very small part indeed of the seriousness of the proposal which is before your Lordships' House. That proposal is serious because it alters the existing relations between Church and State in England; and the alteration of those relations cannot be made without very serious consideration, should not be made hastily or by a side blow in a preamble which has never been discussed. I maintain then that the effect of the Bill is to alter the existing relations 24 of Church and State in England. To speak quite briefly as to those relations they may be put, I think, in this form—that in England the theory of the English Church is that the English nation, being a Christian nation and therefore, part of the Catholic Church of Christ, has power, and not only power but a responsibility towards God, to order its affairs in things spiritual as well as in things temporal independently of any foreign power, and with complete control of the clergy of the Church. That theory the most rev. Primate somewhat lightly dismissed; he thought that it had disappeared somewhere about the seventeenth century. But I was rather surprised to find that he did not substitute for it some other theory of the relation of any Established Church in England.
If you give up the old one, to what new theory do you resort? As far as I can judge from the Report the theory is this, that the Church of England is a voluntary religious corporation and has, therefore, the same right as any other voluntary corporation to manage its own affairs. In effect what you are asked to do is to give the same freedom that you would give to any other religious corporation while at the same time retaining for the Church the special privileges which it enjoys as a national Church. We cannot expect such a serious consideration as that to be made without rousing the attention of all the other voluntary religious corporations in the country; they cannot fail to ask if you put yourselves in the position of a voluntary religious corporation why you should be more privileged than all the other religious corporations of the country.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not know whether I might say to the right rev. Prelate that this is exactly what is not done if the control of Parliament is given as is proposed.
THE LORD BISHOP OF MANCHESTER
I will deal with that point presently; I shall show abundantly that what I am saying is completely true and that the control of Parliament does not affect the question at all. One thing only I ask—namely, that those who are promoting this measure should not put it before us merely as some easy way of facilitating church legislation, but should honestly confess that they have given up the old theory of the Establishment and are proceeding upon a new theory, and then should justify what they are doing.
25 The proposal is practically this, to form within the existing Church of England a self-governing corporation. We are told that this process does not affect any existing rights. I put it to your Lordships that if you pass this Bill, if you really institute this easy method of passing ecclesiastical legislation, is it reasonable to suppose that any ordinary, old-fashioned way of proceeding in Parliament with ecclesiastical legislation would have a moment's hearing? Could any layman in this House or elsewhere introduce a Bill for dealing with ecclesiastical affairs? Would he not be instantly told that this Bill ought to have come to us through the Assembly of the Church? Therefore the existing rights are affected. It is the same with the rights of laymen in the parish. What would be happening is this, that by enfranchising a part of the Church you would be depressing the status of those who were not admitted to the franchise. It stands to reason that you could not in any country enfranchise a part of the inhabitants without at once depressing the condition of the rest. What would be the natural consequence? Laws would be passed in which the unenfranchised would have no hand. Alteration of the revenues of the Church would be made, alteration of the distribution of them, in which the unenfranchised would have no say. When the question of the appointment of a new clergyman came before the parish, would it be the whole parish that would be consulted? Certainly not. It would be quite possible for a small clique to have been formed either in the parish church meeting or in the parish council which, in the teeth of the whole unenfranchised part of the parish, could insist upon continuing the very kind of process of which the noble Lord spoke just now. With a limited franchise such as this is you are really depressing the condition of the unenfranchised, and then if you examine the basis of franchise—that matter was put before you so recently by the noble Lord that I need not repeat what he said.
I was very glad indeed that attention was called to the difficulty of saying what religious bodies are or are not in communion with the Church of England. Why, quite recently the chairman of the House of Laymen in the Province of York was a member of the Catholic Apostolic Church. Is the Catholic Apostolic Church in communion with the Church of England? And, if it is, where is the legal authority 26 for saying so? Where is the proper authority that has defined what churches are in communion with the Church of England and what churches are not? But the effect of this declaration, which has not only to be made but also to be signed—and those of your Lordships who are familiar with the ordinary rustic layman know how strong is his suspicion to put his hand to any document whatever, and how many will fail to put their hands to this declaration simply because they have never seen it or never heard of it—the effect upon other communions will be to create very serious resentment. I read from the British Weekly for this week, commenting on the declaration—No elector is disqualified by reason of his character. He may be a thief, or an adulterer, or a notorious evil-liver; he may be the parish drunkard or the parish rake; but he must not be a Methodist class leader or a Baptist deacon.When you practically put, as the one disqualification for the franchise in the Church of England, membership of some other religious body you at once cause other religious bodies to feel that, their status is affected and they cannot fail to challenge you as to the basis on which you have framed your new relations between Church and State.
I pass from the declaration to the Assembly. I was surprised that the noble Lord who spoke last did not think it was a very ecclesiastical Assembly. There are, of course, different ways of looking at these things. But the Assembly consists, first of all, of the House of Bishops, all of whom sit ex officio; and secondly, of the House of Clergy, of whom at the present time more than one-half sit ex officio and of whom 40 per cent. are nominees of the Bishops and only a very small proportion comparatively are really representatives even of the clergy. We shall be told that all these things are to be altered and that Convocation is to be reformed. But why were not steps taken to reform Convocation or at least to show your Lordships what reform of Convocation was proposed, instead of coining to you with the existing constitution and then leaving it to be found out afterwards whether Convocation is to be reformed, for the better or for the worse.
As to the laity, about whose presence in this Assembly so much has been said, no doubt it is satisfactory that they should be there; but if any one imagines that they are going to sit there with any of the rights or privileges which belong to the Scottish 27 laymen in the National Assembly he grossly deceives himself. In the first place, this laity will go through a very careful process of purgation. They will not be elected directly from the parishes. You will be told, if you ask that they should be, that it is quite impossible. If it is impossible to have a really democratic election then do not let us talk about a democratic basis. But if the election is to be the election of laymen who depend for their appointment upon, so far as I can make out, about 100,000 out of the millions of the laity of the Church of England, then they are not democratically elected, but they are a very close oligarchy; and, somehow or other, it often works out that they are laymen rather more ecclesiastically-minded than the clergy themselves.
I desire next your Lordships' patience while I say a few words about the powers of the Assembly, for these have been rather lightly passed over and they need, I think, very careful examination. I am not at all aware what the result, of the votes of the Representative Church Council may be, or whether the National Assembly at the present time exists, or whether it has these powers, or whether it will acquire these powers by the passing of this Bill. All these things are entirely vague and unsettled, so far as I can see, but the powers which are taken for the National Assembly are these—(1) The Assembly shall be lice to discuss any proposal concerning the Church of England and to make provision in respect thereof, and where such provision requires Parliamentary sanction the authority of Parliament shall be sought in such manner as may be prescribed by Statute.(2) The Assembly or any of the three Houses thereof may debate and formulate its judgment by resolution upon any matter concerning the Church of England or otherwise of religious or public interest.By the way in which these powers are drawn up it is concealed from the ordinary reader that the Assembly has, not two powers, but three powers. The first power is this. Where no Act of Parliament forbids, it has the power not only to discuss any proposal concerning the Church of England but to make provision in respect thereof. It is a strange thing to me that none of the promoters of the Bill have explained what kind of provision is contemplated by these words. For instance, I know no Act of Parliament which would prevent the Assembly from levying taxes, 28 if they could get them out of the parishes or out of individuals. I know no Act of Parliament which would prevent the Assembly from attaching to the sacred rites of the Church certain conditions. I could produce in your Lordships' House a document signed by 600 members in which they ask that the age of Confirmation should be lowered to about ten or eleven, and also that auricular confession should be urged upon these little children as being practically indispensable for their proper preparation for Confirmation or Communion. Is it in the power of the Assembly to make a provision of that kind? I do not want to be answered by a statement that it is not likely they will do so, because that is little to the point. I want to know what are the powers to which these words refer. Do they refer to the constitution which is presented to your Lordships' House. That, so far as I know, is not contained in any Act of Parliament, and no Act of Parliament would be necessary to change it. But are we going to give the Assembly powers on the basis of some constitution which it can alter to-morrow if it saw fit to do so. Surely that is giving powers to a body of which we know almost nothing.
If I am told that the Assembly will not be able to alter its constitution without coming in a Bill to Parliament for power to alter it, then I ask, Why in the name of all that is sensible did you not come in the first instance to Parliament with your constitution and get it sanctioned and guaranteed by Parliament? The provision which says that the Assembly may formulate its judgment upon any matter concerning the Church of England or otherwise of religious or public interest, is a very remarkable one. Any matter concerning any Nonconformist body? Any matter concerning the good conduct of the streets? If it is true, and I believe it is, that the adherents of the Church of England are somewhere between two-thirds and three-fourths of the population, and if the Assembly is really going to be representative of the great body of Englishmen, what about the effect of its opinions upon matters of public interest? Will it not threaten almost the independence of Parliament. If, for instance, in the recent war the National Assembly had been in existence and with all its spiritual authority had put before the nation that no reprisals should be indulged in, no poisonous gas used (I venture to say that it would have been 29 completely within their powers to do so) this opinion might have been seriously detrimental to the public interest. If we are to have a body which is to pronounce upon all questions of public interest, whether religious or otherwise, then at least let us know how that body is going to be composed.
The further question arises, Why should the Church of England only have these privileges? Why should they not equally attach to other denominations? Why should not the Baptist Assembly, the Wesleyan Assembly, and other Assemblies enjoy the same privileges that we are asking for ourselves? I know we shall be told that it is the desire of the promoters of the Bill that they should do so, but seeing that there are between 300 and 400 religious corporations in the country at the present time, if the Assembly of each of these corporations has the power of laying upon your Lordships' Table Bills affecting its own interests, and repealing Acts of Parliament, where is Parliament going to find the time to discuss all these Bills with which your Lordships' House will be littered? It is not really possible to give to all denominations the privileges which we are asking for ourselves.
I am afraid I have detained your Lordships far too long already, but there are one or two other matters on which I ought to speak. The noble Lord who spoke last said that the speech of the most rev. Primate up to the present time was unanswered. I should be a bold man to suppose that I could entirely answer the speech of so eminent and sagacious a person as the most rev. Primate, and yet when I listened to it there occurred to me the old saying which I learnt in my school days—a saving from Tacitus:The State was never so corrupt as when the legislature was most prolific.It may not have been a bad thing for the. Church of England to have passed through a time of drought in the matter of legislation. That is no answer, of course, to the most rev. Primate. It is only a suggestion. The answer is this, that so far as I know for some time past the Church has not asked for any legislation. I have been for the last seventeen years a member of the Upper House of Convocation of York, and during the whole of that time no Bill has been submitted to that Convocation for proposal in Parliament. For most of the whole of that time we have been discussing 30 the revision of the Prayer Book. I can remember before that, when I was in the Lower House of Canterbury, that we discussed the Delapidations Act and several other Acts which became law, but for the last twelve years or more we have not been promoting legislation.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
May I interrupt the right rev. Prelate. Perhaps he forgets that only a short time ago we discussed the Union of Benefices Bill, which is now before your Lordships' House.
THE LORD BISHOP OF MANCHESTER
I admit the exception; and as the Bill is before the House and will no doubt be passed, it only strengthens my argument. If we produced more of these "consenting" Bills they would pass more easily.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
The Bill has not passed yet, and there is the greatest possible difficulty in getting it passed in another place.
THE LORD BISHOP OF MANCHESTER
But as far as your Lordships' House is concerned, I doubt if there has been much difficulty. As to the question of legislation dealing with Ecclesiastical Courts, the most rev. Primate is well aware that no measure has been submitted to the Convocations of Canterbury and York to consider what the Ecclesiastical Courts ought to be. They have never attempted—I mean in the last twelve years—to make up their minds on this important subject; most important, for without it all the other legislation is quite futile.
The noble Lord who spoke last desired to see legislation controlling the ritual of the clergy, but if there are no Ecclesiastical Courts what is the use of any measure to control the ritual of the clergy? You must have operative Ecclesiastical Courts, and to myself it has been a matter of profound astonishment that all the efforts I have made at different times to get this matter discussed and considered have been entirely in vain. There has been a solid wall of opposition, not on the part of the State, but on the part of the Church itself.
The Church of England has a hold upon the affections of the nation which it would be very difficult to exaggerate. My mind 31 goes back to the declaration of the Armistice when, within half an hour's time, St. Paul's Cathedral was thronged with worshippers, not summoned to any service but rushing to the Cathedral that they might there pour out their praises and thanksgivings to the Almighty giver of victory. They had not to ask themselves whether they belonged to any other religious denomination which was not in communion with the Church of England. They had not to ask themselves whether they had any right in the Cathedral. They had a right simply because they were English people; and what I am earnestly contending against is the formation, within the Church of England, of some particularly enfranchised and privileged aristocracy, so to speak, which shall dishearten the ordinary layman and make him feel that unless he is on the electoral roll he is not really, for all intents and purposes, a Churchman.
We are asked what remedy we have to propose. The remedy is this, that the whole of this matter should be supplied to your Lordships' House, the whole Constitution, the whole of the Assembly, and that we should, trusting the nation and trusting Parliament, ask frankly and freely: Will you go on leaving us in a state of barrenness in respect of the laws which we need, or will you give us that which we want, facility of legislation? We put all we have and all that we have been able to think of upon the Table of your Lordships' House, and we ask you to correct it and to improve it; but for the sake of what is right and good to give, not to some privileged class but to the whole Church, an effective voice in the administration of its affairs.
§ LORD EMMOTT
My Lords, there is one observation in which I am sure I shall carry the whole of your Lordships with me, when I say that we have not found the speech of the right rev. Prelate who has just sat down at all too long; but there was one observation which he made and in which, if I may say so, with the greatest possible respect, he did seem to fall into serious error. He asked what would be the case if all the Nonconformist Churches should equally lay upon the Table of this House and of another place Bills dealing with various matters. The real case for this Bill, as I understand it, is that the so-called Free Churches of this country are able to legislate for themselves in regard 32 to a great variety of natters in which the Church of England has no freedom at all and for which Parliament will find no time if the Church of England herself moves.
It seems to me a rather significant matter that the speeches of those opposing or severely criticising this Bill are devoted really to what are comparatively Committee points, rather than to the broad case made for this Bill. I admit that the Committee points are important, and I am sure that the promoters of this Bill, of whom I am not one, will have to consider very carefully some of the criticisms brought forward tins afternoon; and perhaps the most difficult and important of all will be the question of the submission of the Appendix to the Address to Parliament.
I speak on this question with more than usual diffidence, because I know that so many of your Lordships have devoted long years of study to the question dealt with in this Bill, and I am afraid I may be guilty of some crudity of expression and even of thought in what I have to say. Were it not that I speak from a somewhat different mental angle from that from which many of your Lordships speak I should not have spoken at all on this Bill; but I must frankly say, in the first place, that for many years now past I have believed that Disestablishment was the only remedy by which the Church of England could obtain the freedom which she ought to have. I was not a Liberationist as I understand the term. I recognised the dangers of Disestablishment, but I did not, and I do not, believe that any spiritual advantage can permanently accrue to a Church believing in her divine mission from an appearance of unity depending on an artificial union between Church and State, and I was ready to run the risks of Disestablishment in order to obtain freedom for the Church, for without freedom I do not believe she can have the spiritual growth which she ought to have.
This position I know differentiates me from many of your Lordships who would not be willing to accept Disestablishment except as a last resort; but while ready to accept it if no other and better way is possible, I must say as a practical politician that I have great doubts whether the country wants Disestablishment. It is twenty years, almost to a day, since I entered Parliament, but for forty years I have taken an active interest in political affairs, and I venture to say that during that time 33 the question of Disestablishment as it affects the minds of those who are not in communion with the Church of England has grown of less rather than of greater importance. I believe that fewer votes at elections now turn on the question of Disestablishment, and that being the case I ask myself, Must the Church remain subject permanently to the legislative machinery of an elected Assembly which has neither time nor inclination to attend to her affairs?
For six years I was Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons, and during that period I became an advocate of Church reform, because I was convinced by being brought into such close touch with that Assembly that the House of Commons was an utterly unsuitable body to deal with Church affairs. I speak with the greatest respect of the House of Commons as a legislative assembly, and of its fairness, but in the first place no contentious legislation can get through the House of Commons without the active support of the Government, and every Church Bill is treated as contentious, and in the second place the House is so largely composed of non-members of the Church of England that it becomes an unsuitable assembly to deal with measures affecting details relating to that Church. I know, and it is to the credit of those Members of the other House who are not members of the Church of England, that they feel a delicacy in, and a dislike to, dealing with Church affairs. This being so, the growth of the system of delegation by Parliament and the increase of Provisional Order machinery does open up an alternative form of procedure which is adopted in this Bill. Of the principle of the Bill I need say nothing. I just want to say one word on the precedents. I believe that the principle of the Bill is amply covered by the case of the Scottish Church, which is equally an Established Church, but has far greater freedom in regard to its own affairs than is asked for by this Bill for the Church of England. I believe the method of delegation to committees and departments is on the line of modern Parliamentary development.
Then, my Lords, the question to me seems to be whether this Bill is fair and right in itself, and I maintain that it is. The most rev. Primate has shown abundantly what a large number of questions there are awaiting attention affecting the Church which 34 cannot now be dealt with in Parliament. Every one must acknowledge the force of what he said. My noble and learned friend Lord Haldane acknowledged it, and he gave an offer for help. But with the greatest possible respect to him I ask, What use is that offer for help? The difficulty does not lie here, it lies in another place, and his promise of help does not give one iota of assistance in getting Bills through the House of Commons.
Admitting that the principle of the Bill is right and fair, I am a little impatient at this talk of the price that must be paid for the Bill, by which is meant Disestablishment. If Disestablishment is coming at once, I admit it is an answer, be it a good or bad answer; about that we should vary in opinion. But if it is not coining at once or very soon, I do ask this question, Is it politically decent to say, as many people do say in the country at the present time, "You must wait an indefinite period until it suits us on general political grounds, with probably entirely secular aims in view, to pass a scheme of Disestablishment and Disendowment? It is true that we cannot name the day. We do not know even if the country wants it. We do not know when we shall be in power. But meanwhile we who are so anti-Erastian that we want to give the Church of England more autonomy than she is asking under this Bill, will join with the ultra-Erastians, who wish to give no freedom at all, in killing this measure." My Lords, such a way of putting the case only needs stating to stand condemned.
Now I turn to the real objections to this Bill, and I am only going to deal with Second Reading objections as I see them. The Second Reading objections, whatever they may be, are certainly not those put forward by my noble and learned friend Lord Haldane. We all admire my noble and learned friend's courage and his ability, and, if I may respectfully say so, I think his speech in opposing this Bill the other day, a speech which I unfortunately had not the privilege of hearing, was one of the ablest Parliamentary speeches he has ever made. But when it is examined in detail, that speech, as is so often the case with Parliamentary tours de force, gave no valid Second Reading objections to this Bill. At great length he assumed, without proving, that this Bill gave an increase of powers to the Episcopate; and, in the second place, he stated very shortly—for he saw that he was skating over very thin ice—that there 35 was no analogy between what is asked for in this Bill and the case of the Scottish Church. May I say a word on this question of the increase of the power of the Episcopate? I do not think there is a word or a line in the Bill which is likely to increase the power of the Episcopate in any way. I can show a great many ways in which it may diminish the power of the Episcopate. I will show a practical one. A Bill has been mentioned, I think by the right rev. Prelate who has just sat down, the Union of Benefices Bill. It has been introduced into this House and received with favour by your Lordships. It was introduced by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. I believe that if this Bill passes that Bill could not be introduced by the right rev. Prelate again. That certainly diminishes the power of a Bishop as a legislator. I admit, however, that the legislative powers are not so important as spiritual functions; and I want to say a word on the question of whether this Bill does increase the power of the Episcopate in that direction.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
If I might interrupt my noble friend, that is a mistake. There is no interference whatever with the rights of members of either House to introduce legislation.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I was indebted to somebody for that illustration; I imagined it was correct, and I apologise if that is not the case. At any rate, Bills of that kind would come very much within the functions I of the new Church Council. However, I am going to deal with the more important question, the question of spiritual functions. The party in the Church of England which is jealous of encroachment upon the power of the Episcopate is, of course, the High Church Party or the Catholic-minded Anglicans. On this Bill the English Church Union which specially comprises that party is, I believe, more or less divided. I have recently read with the greatest possible interest a book written by some High Churchmen on the place of the laity in the Church, and anyone who will read the economies of consent of the writers and will mark the reservations by which they surround any word of praise in regard to the Bill, will see how greatly they dread the possible encroachment of this Bill on the powers of the Episcopate. To them the Church is a monarchy, not a democracy. The essence of this Bill is that a decisive 36 vote is given to a House of Laymen which is eventually democratically elected. Here is an extract on that from one of these writers—In the first place, the claim for the laity to share in the government of the Church is barred by the common law of the Universal Church.These gentlemen distrust intensely the possible absorption of the power of Convocation which is outlined in the scheme. They further draw attention to the well-known motto legem credendi statuit lex orandi, and they point out that "it is quite impossible to separate in two distinct compartments the doctrines of a religion and the worship of that religion." Liturgical worship seems to them to lie on the borderland between "Faith" (which is, of course, with them the province of the Bishops) and "machinery," in which laymen may legitimately take part. The decisive vote given to the House of Laymen in this Bill does clearly extend to matters on this borderland; and here (it is my last extract from the book) is what is said on such a vote—If they" [that is, laymen] "vote for a measure initiated by the Bishops they formally sanction what they have no power to sanction. If they vote against such a measure they still exercise the volum decisivum and paralyse the inherent authority of the Episcopate.On the text of the Bill, as I have said, I can find nothing to increase the power of the Episcopate, and I think I have shown how this section of the Church, which is most jealous of the power of the Episcopate, dreads some of the provisions in this measure. I hope, after this, that we shall not hear any more of that particular objection.
Now may I say a word about the analogy of the Church of Scotland? My noble friend said there was no analogy because this Bill increased the Episcopal power, which I have dealt with, and because the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was an entirely democratic body. This Bill does set up a House of Laymen with a decisive vote. They are popularly elected I admit by stages, not directly, by Churchmen. Now the General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland is entirely composed of Ministers and Elders. The Elders are ordained. I do not know whether they are laymen in our sense of the word; I really am not sure about it; but at any rate they assist in the communion service. There is no separate House of Laymen at all. Out of 706 mem- 37 bers, I think there are 629 (367 Ministers and 262 Elders) elected by Kirk Sessions. There is therefore in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland an absolute majority of Ministers. But what are Kirk Sessions? They are permanent bodies in which vacancies are filled by co-option. They have no element, of popular election at all. The only popular element is that the congregation has a power of veto if the nomination of the Kirk Session of new Elders is challenged. That being the case, I really fail to understand how my noble friend could have said that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was democratically appointed, and that the House of Laymen in this country will be less democratic than they.
If my noble friend's objections are invalid, what are the real objections? One, of course, is Disestablishment. I have dealt as far as I can with that. But I want to take two others, and I am choosing those which seem to me to be the strongest. The first is this. It is feared that the laity of the Church have become so divorced from responsibility and therefore so deprived of interest in the Church that they are unlikely to avail themselves of this measure, if it is passed, and of the scheme which underlies the measure. This is said to be due to the autocratic power of the clergymen in the ritual and services of his parish; and partly perhaps to the congregation having so little or nothing to say in regard to all matters of patronage. It is argued that in these circumstances the congregations will not quickly begin to take an interest in this reformed Church constitution, so that the new house of Laymen will tend to be, as the right rev. Prelate said, more ecclesiastic than the ecclesiastics themselves. In this case there may possibly arise a rigidity of discipline which is most undesirable. If the High Church Party happens to be predominant, we should have reintroduced the Prayer Book of Edward VI, and Holy Communion would be made to approximate more and more to the Mass by compulsion. If the Low Church were predominant there would be interference with practices to which devoted priests and devout congregations attach importance, and consciences would be seared. In either case the life and liberty movement which is supposed to be at the back of this Bill would turn out in its final effect to be deadening to life in the Church and utterly inimical to liberty. I have stated the objection as fairly as I can.
38 I am not a High Churchman. I am opposed to High Church tendencies. I do not want to say one word to irritate anybody, but I must say why. I am opposed to them because ultimately, to me, they seem to lean on the one side with those who are too much attached to ritual, to materialism; and on the other I think they are liable to lead to scepticism. If this Bill had the effect of bringing victory to the High Church Party and had the deplorable effects that some people foresee, I, personally, should greatly deplore it, and therefore that particular objection does give me most serious pause. I have felt bound to face it fairly and squarely. And this, for what it is worth, is the answer I give to it. I believe these fears an exaggerated. The success of the Report of the Archbishop's Committee, and the treatment of it by the Representative Church Assembly and by Convocation is, I think, an earnest of the moderating and unifying effect that a great Church Council such as is proposed would have. The checks and balances of separate voting are also very considerable in their effect.
I believe that this new body would approach the work of the Church in the right spirit, and would refuse to adopt either a policy of extremes or a policy of exclusion. Indeed, personally I am inclined to think that the fears of these who oppose this measure and the hopes of the extreme supporters of it are both going to be disappointed. I do not think it will have such a profound effect as is imagined. If the Church Council did anything extreme or unpopular, that does not make the measure law. It still has, in order to pass, to lie on the Table of both Houses. It was suggested by my noble and learned friend opposite, and it has been suggested by the right rev. Prelate this afternoon, that all sorts of things might pass. If so, they would have to go through Parliament.
§ LORD EMMOTT
The right rev. Prelate, so long as he remains a member of this House, could object to anything lying on the Table of this House. Of course, this new Church Council may do absurd things, just as Parliament may do absurd things at any moment. There is no check 39 to Parliament, as there is to this Bill. And as to a Bill lying on the Table being a farce, believe me, my Lords, it is not a farce. I never knew a highly contentious measure lying on the Table of the House of Commons for which some time was not found, although it was sometimes found by keeping us out of our beds after 11 o'clock at night. I can speak here for the supporters of this Bill. I am certain that the supporters of this Bill would be only too anxious and ready to make it part of the measure that the House of Commons should give proper attention to any proposal put before them, always provided that that did not mean indefinite delay. In the third place, this Ecclesiastical Committee has very wide powers; it must report for or against, and it must give reasons for its report. That, of itself, ensures attention being drawn to any important change.
But the strongest reason of all, to my mind, is that present conditions are so inimical to real spiritual life in the Church. I do not say that the conditions are intolerable. I noticed that the most rev. Primate carefully avoided that word. He said that the Church was crippled and maimed, or something of that sort—and personally, I would rather run some risk of changes to which I should object than see the continuance of the deadening attitude of detachment and irresponsible criticism which is held by so many congregations and regular attendants and communicants of the Church of England. For the greater good of real interest in Church matters I would run the risk of some extravagance, although I think the danger of extravagance is extremely small.
The only other objection which I shall deal with—and only for a few moments—is that this is not an Enabling Bill, but an Excluding Bill. The Church is said to be the National Church. It is, I think, less the National Church than it was. But it is said to be the National Church, and it is stated that we have no right to exclude anyone who has any rights or interest in the Church from his position. The rights are of two kinds; there is the right of the franchise in the appointment of the House of Laymen. There is also the citizen right in connection with Parliament. With this latter I have dealt to a large extent. Whether the Bill gives the best system is a Committee point. But at any 40 rate, do let us remember what will happen if this Bill is rejected. We still go on with the tyranny of the perpetual veto, of the one single objector's hat in another place. That one hat can stop everything, and does stop everything, year after year, session after session. Is that right? There must be some method by which we can get rid of that particular form of obstruction, and I think we ought to try and find it.
As to the franchise rights of the House of Laymen, on this matter I want to ascertain what the grievances are. I do not quite understand them. Personally, I cannot take the purely Erastian objection. I must dismiss that, and I am not attempting to deal with it. But beyond that, where is there improper exclusion in this Bill? "Every baptised person not in communion with another Church"—I leave the Committee point—I hope those words will be improved, if they can be. Every baptised person not in communion with another church will be one of the electors. That includes a Baptist who ceases to attend his own chapel and says he is a member of the Church of England. Who are those who are excluded? Roman Catholics are excluded. But to the Roman Catholic the Anglican Church is schismatic at least, and it would probably be a sin for the Roman Catholic to interfere in its internal affairs, and I do not think he has any desire to do so. The Nonconformist who is in communion with his own Church is also excluded. But do Nonconformists want to vote in this new Church Council? If so, why? Let them state their case. Do they want to interfere in internal Church affairs? And if they do, are they anxious that Churchmen should interfere in their affairs? I do not believe they want to do it; but if they do, let them come forward and say so.
I turn to non-Christians. I do not think the Jews have any interest in the matter; and I do not think the Mahomedans have Still less have people who are indifferent to all religious dogma any right or interest in Church legislation. And all these people, provided you give this effective veto—and the promoters of this Bill wish to make it more effective if possible—all these people retain their rights as ordinary citizens. I am anxious for guidance on this. I cannot see, in spite of what the right rev. Prelate said, who has any grievance in regard to this matter, Therefore, my Lords, I do not think this is an Excluding Bill.
41 I have much more reason than the right rev. Prelate to apologise to you for the length at which I have spoken. I have only one word to say in conclusion. I have tried to state the case for this Bill as I see it, and I earnestly appeal that its Second Reading should be carried by a large majority. I believe the scheme outlined by the Bill may be of the greatest benefit to the Church and nation. Much depends, I admit, on how that scheme is worked, but the fact of such a scheme having been produced and having been strongly supported by a vast majority of representative churchmen leads me to hope that our want of unity in the Church is not so great as is popularly imagined, and that the new Church Council, if and when it is appointed, will act in the spirit of moderation and statesmanship which has been shown by the authors of this measure, and will thus tend to the unity and effectiveness of Christendom in this land.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ELY
My Lords, I listened with great interest and with great admiration to the speech of my right rev. brother on my right, but, I am bound to add, also with entire disagreement. I listened with interest and with admiration because he certainly proved himself an artist, but it seemed to me that he put forth his power as an artist in depicting quite imaginary horrors. He spoke of the proposed Church Assembly, as I understood him, levying taxes and repealing laws and passing enactments about the conduct of war. And that when Parliament exists and when Parliament is supreme. Surely the picture which he drew was one utterly impossible to conceive. I confess that during his speech I felt as I have sometimes felt when I have had a very bad dream, like the dream of poor unhappy Clarence, one moment walking on the slippery plank, and then plunging among the fishes into the depths of the sea. What a comfort it is at last to wake up once more to the world of reality.
I fully grant that if, when this Bill passes, as I hope it may pass, the Church Assembly proved itself a band of conspirators and Parliament cheerfully allowed them to be conspirators, and if under this Bill the Church set itself to hoodwink Parliament, and if simultaneously Parliament proved itself a fool and permitted itself to be hoodwinked by the Church Assembly, you might have very strange results indeed. But, 42 my Lords, commonsense, I venture to say, and common experience show us that we are living in what is, generally speaking, a sane world. If it were not so any form of healthy action would be impossible. The speech of the right rev. Prelate brought to my mind the old Jewish saying—"He that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." He was so intent upon the clouds, magnifying the clouds which exist, inventing clouds which did not exist, that he was unable to take any of the risks necessary to action, and he who will not act will surely reap a harvest of disaster.
May I explain my own position. I do not venture to rise in this debate because I have any special knowledge. It is because of my position as representing the average opinion of average men. I rejoice to feel that I do represent the opinion of my own diocese. Last year and this year at our Diocesan Conference—which I may say we lately reformed in order that it might be more representative of the clergy and the laity in the diocese—we discussed the principles of this Bill, and except for quite insignificant minorities—on one occasion I think two, and on another occasion seven—the diocese did heartily approve of the principles of the Bill. I think that I know my clergy well enough by this time to venture to say that the parochial clergy are not wild votaries of change. I am sure that East Anglian laymen are not, likely to be carried away by any gust of sentiment. They are not ecclesiastically minded laymen, as that term is commonly used. My experience makes me believe that they are very much the reverse. They are hard-headed men whose judgment must be convinced by what they believe to be solid argument or they will not support a cause. They are men who would not be easily manufactured into supporters of any Bill.
In East Anglia we in recent times have had experiences which have brought home to us in a very vivid way the great and practical need of such a Bill as this. When the Prime Minister wrote to me in June of 1905 to ask whether I would undertake the duties of the bishopric of Ely, he enclosed a printed document which set forth a scheme for the division and for the re-adjustment of the dioceses of East Anglia. That scheme, mark you, had already passed Convocation. Next Session a Bill was introduced—a general Enabling Bill—and when it seemed past 43 hope for that to emerge through Parliament then a special Bill was introduced. The most rev. Primate will correct me if I am wrong when I say that two successive Prime Ministers were favourable to that Bill, but Parliament was too full of business for them to give time for the discussion of the Bill. It was blocked by a few opponents, and therefore it could not pass as an unopposed measure.
We in East Anglia waited. I cannot say we waited with patience, but we waited; and in the very last days of the Session of 1913 there was the possibility of what I will venture to call a deal. A bargain was struck by those who were in charge of the Bishoprics' Bill, and those who were in charge of some other Bill, and the Bishoprics' Bill was hustled through—I think I am right in saying—in indecent haste, so that no Amendments could be put forward. It was hustled through just, at the very fag end of the session. Now, I ask, was that long waiting, was that method of terminating the long waiting worthy of Parliament? Was it right? Was it an example of Parliament exercising effective influence on the affairs of the Church? My diocese waited for seven years under the disability of impending change. When that change was to come, whether it would ever come, we did not know. How on earth, in such uncertainty, was the work of the Diocese to go forward? When such changes were pending we were in a state, as your Lordships will readily understand, of partial paralysis.
Will you forgive me if I say a word about my own position? When I became Bishop in 1905 the whole of Bedfordshire, the whole of Huntingdonshire, the whole of Cambridgeshire and half of Suffolk formed the diocese of Ely. Considering the great size of the diocese, considering the modern conceptions of the activity which a, Bishop ought to show, considering also, may I say, my own earnest desire if possible in some sense to continue the work of a student which I have carried on for many years in Cambridge, I do not doubt that I should have asked that a suffragan might be appointed to help me. How could I make that request when any day the Bill might pass and change the whole conditions under which I worked? Do you wonder that in East Anglia we earnestly desire that some reasonable way may be discovered in which without these vexatious delays the assent of Parliament may be gained for the readjusting of the Church's machinery according 44 to the need and for the carrying out of reforms which the Church deliberately desires and which, I will add, approve themselves to the majority of English citizens who think about the matter at all? This is a concrete case to which I have ventured to appeal. Many other cases will arise at once in your minds, cases where reforms are urgently necessary in the Church. But how can responsible men whose days are already over-full give time to framing measures—and those measures will need very careful and long deliberations—when if the results of their deliberations are embodied in a Bill that Bill will be liable (they know it from experience) to be shelved session after session and year after year? This abortive delay in Parliament kills wholesome reform in the Church.
I have spoken so far of the need of this Bill. Will you forgive me if I take up a little of your time in turning to the Bill itself. I ask you to judge of the Bill not by what its opponents say, for its opponents are often men of very active imagination and of an imagination of an extremely pessimistic kind. Nor again will you judge of it by what its supporters say, for even some of them are men of active imagination and their imagination is sometimes of a somewhat optimistic kind. They fancy, some of them, that the peculiar millenium which they favour will be brought about by the Bill. I am sure that necessarily the results of the Bill will be of a much more modest kind than either its foes or some of its supporters imagine. Judge of the Bill, I say, not by what its opponents say nor even by what its supporters say, but by the provisions of the Bill itself.
First of all, I ask what is the object of the National Assembly of the Church of England which the Bill proposes to create. It is to be the authoritative means by which Parliament will be informed of the wishes of the Church. It is the spokesman between the Church and the State. But to hear some people talk, and to read the letters which some people write, one would suppose that there existed at the present moment some eminently democratic assembly which is the authoritative voice of the Church and that under this Bill the place of this eminently democratic assembly will be usurped by an eminently aristocratic assembly slavishly subservient to the Bishops. What are the facts? They are given in the first clause of the Bill itself. "The Convocations of Canterbury 45 and York have recommended," and so on. Whatever are the merits or whatever are the demerits of Convocation, Convocation is without controversy a purely clerical body. No layman's voice has ever been heard, or ever can be heard, in that sacred strife of tongues. The clerical Convocation is the only authoritative assembly by which at the present time the Church can express its wishes. But even that does not exhaust the possibilities of the present time. The procedure may be far more oligarchical. I take a classical example, the Public Worship Regulation Bill. Of course I am not concerned for a moment with the character of that Bill, nor with the difference which existed between its first and its final form, but I call attention to this one fact, that it was not even laid before the Houses of Convocation for the information of Convocation. This important ecclesiastical measure was introduced into Parliament by the then Archbishop at the request of the majority of the Bishops—pure prelacy, which the noble and learned Viscount so instinctively dreads. I am sure he shudders when he becomes aware how the sword of prelacy is even now hanging over us all.
From this pure prelacy as well as from pure clericalism this Bill offers deliverance. Why is that? Because the Assembly consist of three Houses, the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laymen, and further because—Nothing (except what relates only to the conduct of business) shall be deemed to be finally passed by the Assembly which has not received the assent of a majority of the members present and voting of each of the three Houses sitting together or separately.What does that mean? It means this. Suppose the whole bench of Bishops set their episcopal hearts upon some measure. It comes before the Assembly. The unanimous vote, it may be, of the bishops is supported by the unanimous vote of the clergy. But that measure is lost if a majority of one is against it in the House of Laymen.
I have ventured to put before you facts. I challenge any one to show that those facts are not so. Now may I call your attention to what I will gently call "non-fact." The noble and learned Viscount said, or is reported to have said—If this Bill were passed the Church would pass from a democratic to an aristocratic basis, only the aristocracy would be an episcopal aristocracy.46 With all submission I venture to say that the power of travesty could no further go. For the first time in the history of the Church laymen will have their place in uttering the authoritative voice of the Church.
So much for the Church Assembly. Now let me turn for a moment to the provisions according to which measures will come before Parliament. Obviously I have no authority at all to speak for ally one but myself. If this part of the Bill can be improved I myself should say by all means let amendments be proposed in Committee. I cannot doubt that those who are in charge of the Bill would consider those amendments with an open mind. I believe that we who support the Bill desire honestly to make the Bill as good as it possibly can be made. Of course I am not versed in Parliamentary custom and procedure. I have no knowledge at all of these matters. But I think that even a tyro may clearly see some important things, and again if I am wrong someone who is wiser than I am will correct me.
I desire to make four quite obvious remarks, but I think they are important, about the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council. The noble and learned Viscount said—When this precious Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council—"Precious "in his speech was something of a Homeric epithet—twenty-five men—who are they, and how are they to be chosen? There is not a word in the Bill about it.Your Lordships see that there is a question asked and there is a statement made. I think that the Bill itself answers the question and refutes the statement. Section 2 (2) says—The Ecclesiastical Committee shall consist of such members of the Privy Council, not exceeding twenty-five in all, as His Majesty from time to time may think fit to appoint in that behalf.Here, as always, His Majesty will act according to the advice of his Ministers. Again, notice that in the Bill there is no provision that any one of those twenty-five should be a Churchman. They are to be the grand jury of the whole people appointed on the advice of Ministers of the Crown.
In the third place let me call attention to Section 3 (3) of the Bill, which says—After considering the measure, the Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a report thereon to 47 His Majesty, advising that the Royal Assent ought or ought not to be given to it, and stating the reasons for such advice.Therefore the advice deals not only with the form but with the substance of the proposed measure. In other words, this grand jury of the English people may veto the measure and once and for ever dismiss the case. In the fourth place, this Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council, the noble and learned Viscount said, would tender advice to the Sovereign and the Sovereign would have to act upon it. But that is only one-half or one-quarter of the truth. The advice is to become operative on one condition only—namely, "unless within forty days either House of Parliament shall direct to the contrary." If either House of Parliament vetoes, then the advice of the Ecclesiastical Committee at once becomes void. I submit that through this Ecclesiastical Committee, because it is appointed by His Majesty on the advice of the Ministers of the Crown, Parliament itself has an effective initial control of all Church measures.
Now about Parliament itself. Again, there are two very obvious points, and, again, I venture to think that they are important points. The Bill does not ask Parliament to surrender or in any degree to qualify the absolute right of Parliament to initiate and to carry through independently of the Church any legislation it likes about the Church. That is the first point. The second point is this. The Bill does not ask Parliament to surrender or in any degree to qualify the absolute right of Parliament to reject any measure which comes before it from the Church expressing the desire of the Church. Now, if the absolute right to initiate legislation of its own and the absolute right to reject any legislation proposed by the Church itself together do not constitute effective influence, I am quite at a loss to know what effective influence can be.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Will the right rev. Prelate, as he has referred to me, answer a question in order to relieve my mind? Is it or is it not the case that advice under this Bill may be tendered to the Crown on which the Crown will act, the advice being tendered by persons not responsible to Parliament?
THE LORD BISHOP OF ELY
I think, as far as I understand the question, I have 48 already answered it by saying that this advice becomes operative only if Parliament raises no objection against the measure proposed.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
That is not the question that I put. The question is whether a new body, persons hitherto unknown to the Constitution and not responsible to Parliament, are to tender advice directly to the Sovereign?
THE LORD BISHOP OF ELY
I do not sufficiently know Parliamentary procedure to be able to say whether there are not real analogies in the present state of things. I am afraid I must leave that to those who understand Parliamentary procedure much better than I do.
Vague fears are often expressed; it is hinted that the Bill may be used to smuggle revolutionary measures through Parliamentary which will rob the Church of its national character. These objections raise prejudice against the Bill, but it seems to me that they are unworthily indefinite—"Willing to wound but yet afraid to strike." Let us look into the matter for a moment. I suppose we should all agree that if a measure—whatever its character—were the deliberate wish of the Church and of the people it ought to pass through Parliament. The first Reform Bill might have been called—probably was called—a revolutionary measure, but it was salutary and even necessary. The one thing needful, therefore, is that stringent measures should be taken to prevent a revolutionary measure sneaking through Parliament unopposed because unnoticed. I say that the procedure under this Bill absolutely prevents this.
First of all, any measure must secure a majority in each of the three Houses of the Church Assembly. That is a stringent test. Secondly, the Church Assembly is not a Star Chamber; it will not conduct its proceedings with shut doors; its debates will be reported. Any measure with even a tincture of a revolutionary element will soon be notorious; the whole people of the country will know it, and every member of Parliament will know it. Thirdly, the opponents of the measure when they are beaten in the Church Assembly are sure—experience shows us this—to renew opposition outside. Even if one solitary hand is held up in opposition that hand is sure to be an agitated and an 49 agitating hand, and it will relieve its burdened soul in a series of letters to The Times. In the fourth place, the Eccelsiastical Committee of the Privy Council will have first to examine and then to pronounce whether this measure ought or ought not to receive the Royal Assent. That, again, is a most searching test for the measure. Lastly, the measure, which would have already become notorious if there was anything of a revolutionary character about it, will be laid before both Houses of Parliament for forty days, and unless both Houses of Parliament are either insane or asleep no measure could be allowed to slip through unnoticed. Such a contingency it seems to me is absolutely impossible under this Bill. The Bill is not a Bill to camouflage revolutionary proposals. Its provisions exclude any such purpose. But it, provides means whereby Church legislation of a practical and necessary character may, notwithstanding the demands on Parliamentary time, pass through Parliament without those benumbing delays and frustrations which are so great a danger to the Church, and which assuredly are no credit to the State.
There is only one thing more that I desire to say. The consciences of all men have been quickened by the long discipline of the war. Reconstruction is an ingredient of the common air which we all breathe. Every institution which has high and noble traditions is bent on reforming the abuses which may have crept into it. The Church also is set on reforming abuses which have crept into it. It is for this reason that many of us older men, whole-heartedly and from deep conviction, support this Bill. But, in a sense, we have grown accustomed to the old order. I do implore your Lordships to take account of those unnumbered younger men, laity and clergy, now coming into power and with whom the future lies. Many among them have found their manhood and learned their ideals of right and of justice amid the stern and awful realities of the war; and these younger men, more keenly, more painfully, more passionately than is perhaps possible for us older men, feel the menace to the Church's progress and the menace to the Church's self-respect which are necessarily involved, in these days of universal reconstruction, in the Church's absolute helplessness to carry out the simplest measures of reform which a sense of its duty towards Cod and towards the 50 people of England renders obligatory. In justice to the Church and for the sake of these younger men, I beg your Lordships to give this Bill a favourable consideration.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I think it must be a profound regret to your Lordships that there was not a much larger number of your Lordships present to listen to the very eloquent speech which the right rev. Prelate has just delivered. I really think that if the right rev. Prelate had addressed your Lordships when the House was full there would have been hardly anything left to be said either on one side of the argument or the other. He covered the ground in a masterly mariner, and, although he professed not to be an expert in Parliamentary procedure, he appeared to me to have a grasp of the real meaning of our forms and the real effect of an Act of Parliament which could not be bettered by any of those of us who pretend to be professionals in this respect.
I have risen to say only a very few words, because I think it is of moment to place upon record in this afternoon's proceedings from what different quarters of the House and from what different types of mind support for this Bill has come. Of course we expect, with one or two brilliant exceptions, to have the full support of the right rev. Prelates who sit upon that bench; but, in addition to that, this afternoon has shown that all sorts of different minds are impressed with the necessity for this Bill. The speech of my noble friend, the Leader of the Opposition, who sits bride me, although not without considerable criticism of certain parts of the Bill, was in fact a strong plea in support of legislation at the present moment. He, no doubt, suggested to those of us who support this Bill that certain amendments would be required, but on the whole he was in favour of legislation. Next came the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Finlay—a very great authority not only upon matters of politics but upon matters of law—and his speech was also a strong plea for the Second Reading of the Bill. Then the noble Lord who sits below the gangway, Lord Emmott, delivered a speech of which, I am afraid, I did not hear the whole; but he, too, strongly supported the Bill.
The noble Lords to whom I have referred do not belong to a particular political party or to a particular school of thought. 51 I do not speak of their ecclesiastical positions. I mean schools of thought as men of light and leading in this country. They are all deeply impressed with the necessity for a Bill. They ask for amendments. Well, my Lords, I am perfectly certain that your Lordships will consider with an open mind any of the amendments which were suggested in the course of the debate. I do not wish to go into details in respect of them or to pronounce an opinion at this stage of the Bill—that would not be very convenient—but I am quite sure that any amendment which convinces your Lordships will be received, with every kind of desire to give it a favourable consideration, by these who are promoting the Bill.
I might deal with one proposed amendment—a suggestion interjected by the noble Viscount, Lord Haldane. He seems to be oppressed with the idea that we want to oust from its position the authority of the Ministers of the Crown. That never entered into the heads of any of us.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Viscount says it is in the Bill. I do not agree with him, although he is a much better authority than I am. But if it is in the Bill let us take it out. There is no difficulty on that head at all. It is a matter absolutely foreign to our ideas. Of course, His Majesty will act by the advice of his Ministers. I give that as a most absolute assurance. I do not care what act it is, but any act which he is called upon to perform under the proceedings of the Bill will be done on the advice of his responsible Ministers. If you can find what words are wrong in the Bill take them out. There will be no difficulty on our side if that is the case. If the noble Viscount's opposition to the Bill really turns upon that triviality—
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Does the noble Marquess mean that no longer is there to be an Ecclesiastical Committee which is to have the power to advise His Majesty?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
As to that particular phrase those who drafted the Bill were advised that it was the proper phrase in which to indicate that the opinion of this Committee should be conveyed to the two Houses of Parliament.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The Sovereign being the head of the State, that 52 is the form in which the advice of the two Houses of Parliament is given. If it is wrong let the noble and learned Viscount produce better words and let us rope him into the same lobby as ourselves in support of the Bill. Will you come in upon that?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I should prefer to see them. But the real point, of course, is the point made with such eloquence by the right rev. Prelate who has just sat down. It is that we must have some means of legislating for the Church of England, and at present legislation for the Church of England is absolutely impossible. I do not like to quote my own case because that seems to be a presumption, but I have been interested in legislation dealing with Church questions ever since I entered Parliament thirty years ago, and I know from sad experience that it is quite impossible to pass these Bills into law. The result is that all the reforms of the Church of England, as has been said over and over again in this debate, are paralysed. That cannot be defended. I defy any of your Lordships to defend it.
I was unfortunate enough, owing to a very important engagement, to miss the very interesting speech made by the right rev. Prelate who presides over the diocese of Manchester. I understand that he himself is not in favour of doing nothing. He is not in favour of a purely negative policy. Once you get to that point you have got a long way, because then the only suggestion which the critics of the Bill have to make to your Lordships and Parliament is the appointment of a Royal Commission. When I think of all the great efforts for good which have been buried in Royal Commissions and never heard of again I hesitate between two opinions—whether the noble Lords and right rev. Prelates who urge such an expedient are really, I can hardly think it, too stupid to realise what a futile and hopeless policy it is, or whether in reality they do not want to have reform at all. Which is it? Does the right rev. Prelate really counsel the Church of England to go on without any reform?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We shall be most interested to find what the right rev. Prelate did counsel.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Then I must apologise to the right rev. Prelate. The real point is the urgency of some kind of method of legislation. There was no passage in the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Ely's speech which impressed me more than when he dealt upon that aspect of the controversy. Those of us who are watching from a close point of view the movement of religious thought in this country cannot but be deeply impressed with the gradual loss of hold which organised religion is having upon public opinion of this country. It is a significant thing. It is not merely the Church of England, it is all organised religion. I am not going to say that the people of this country are becoming irreligious, but they are becoming impatient of organised religion, and that is a very serious and dangerous symptom. Those of us who know anything about it do not believe that the other phase can be maintained without the assistance of organised religion—it must lead straight on to irreligion. That being the danger, and the present danger of public thought, surely anything which prevents the adaptation of religious forms and laws to the urgent public opinion of the country is a most dangerous policy.
We have the young men coming back front the front, full of all sorts of new ideas, full of energy, and if you cannot get them to go to church or chapel, if you cannot get them to go to any ministrations of organised religion, you must surely recognise the dangerous situation you are in. It seems to me of the most urgent character we should free—I would do it for the Nonconformist bodies as well—the Church of England from anything which hampers her in making all the necessary adaptations of her forms in order to meet this public opinion. It is not that she should be captured by the High Church party. That is what besets the noble Viscount. He seems to think it is a sort of conspiracy to capture the Church of England by the Bishops of the High Church Party. It is nothing of the kind. What we want is to have a real living organism of the Church which is able to adapt herself to the necessities of the time.
The noble Viscount has mistaken the temper of the English people. He says it is a wonderfully tolerant, broad-minded, 54 anti-sacerdotal temperament, and thinks that for that reason it does not care how broad the limits are within which the Church of England should be governed. He wishes it to be controlled, as far as I can make out, by everybody—not only those who do not belong to her communion; his argument would lead us to believe that even pronounced infidels and atheists—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Viscount protested against any kind of franchise which was not of the widest kind. He was afraid that these extreme people would not have control of what he called "our doctrine." The noble Viscount I am afraid does not belong to the Church of England. These are the reasons for which I am most anxious to see time Second Reading passed. As to the details of the Bill they are open to consideration in Committee, and I believe that in passing the Second Reading we shall have the assent not only of all sections in the Church of England, but, broadly speaking, of those earnest religious Nonconformists who are only too anxious the Church of England should be qualified and able to do her work effectively.
My Lords. I quite agree with the noble Marquess who opened the debate that there should be an opportunity of introducing needful reforms into the administration of the Church of England, and that Parliament should give every facility for securing these reforms in a reasonable time, provided always that there is also reasonable opportunity for public opinion in Parliament to express its opinions, and if necessary criticise and amend. What many of us feel is—and especially after our attention has been called to what I may describe as the Archbishop's Committees—that there is a deliberate purpose on the part of those who have framed the Bill to use the help of Parliament, in so far as they are obliged to use it, as little as possible, and to assert as far as possible what I may call the Ecclesiastical idea; that the Church to a certain extent is in fetters to the State, and that it ought to bear those fetters with as much reluctance as possible and escape from them as quickly as possible. I do not say that any group of Christians, though they may happen to have the advantage of being selected by law for special privileges, ought to have it rubbed in that these privileges conferred by the 55 State must be accompanied by a correlative control by the State. I do not want to see anything like the way Queen Elizabeth treated the Church of England. It was perhaps necessary in that time of crisis, but it is not necessary now, and in the changed attitude and feeling of all people towards matters of the spirit such a policy would be distasteful and practically useless.
Those who have studied the history of the Church of England in relation to the State agree that those who direct the policy of the Church, and of the State in concert with the Church, ought to have made the Church as wide as possible and as nearly as possible co-extensive with the State. Of course, Nonconformity dates from the Act of Uniformity of Charles II, and I suppose there are very few people now who do not regret that that Parliament determined to emphasise its triumph and drive out the Puritan section of the Church of England, and drive them into Nonconformity. The mo t rev. Primate said that the Parliament which passed the Act of Uniformity of 1662 was a Parliament with an immense Puritan membership. That was not so. The Parliament of 1662 was overwhelmingly High Church and cavalier, avid at the Revolution that patty prevented William III from accomplishing his policy of comprehension and limited the legislation of that date to the lesser benefit of toleration I quite agree with the noble and learned ex-Lord Chancellor that the various Churches are now suffering not from direct attacks but from the drifting away of such a large mass of English opinion from interest in any Church whatever. It is true, as Lord Emmott said, that as compared with what was the feeling of popular constituencies twenty or thirty years ago there is much less interest in the questions of Establishment and religious equality than there was, but does he suppose that that is owing to any increased interest in the Church? It is owing to a general ebbing of the tide from interest in those questions. The working man of the present day and the leaders of the working men—and I think it is a pity—are more interested in such questions as shorter hours, higher wages and more rights for themselves as against employers. It represents materialism, and it is to lie regretted.
I think, taken with modifications, what is asked for in this Bill is reasonable. You ask that there should be greater facilities for bringing the affairs of the Church up to 56 the level of the times by more rapid legislation; but when going to do that, ought you not to throw open your doors as wide as possible and persuade every man and woman to come in and help you? I agree that you would not get every section of religious thought to come in. I do not think the Roman Catholics would bother. They would not come near you. Of course I do not think the active, keen Nonconformists would come near you, but I think that those people of whom Lord Finlay and the Bishop of Manchester spoke would come in. You talk here as if the people of this country were divided between those who conform and Nonconformists, but there are a large number of people who desire some form of interest in religious activity and who, if they do not find it in the Church, or if they find something very uncongenial in the Church, will go elsewhere. If they find a preacher in the Church who is interesting they will flock from the Nonconformist chapel back to the church.
I ask those who know the country districts if they think you will find a large number of rustics ready to sign formal declarations. You ought to welcome all those who will come to the Church. What you are suffering from, much more than from opposition, is from the general apathy and indifference, and your interest ought to be to overcome that apathy and indifference. I see before me a right rev. Prelate from Wales. I feel perfectly sure that he in Wales would welcome any man who came to help him build up his reconstructed Church, and that he would not ask that man whether he had gone a month or two before to a little Bethel, or to any Bethel. You ought to open your arms wide and welcome every one, and not show suspicion if he is inclined to come and work with you. You should thank Heaven that he is willing to do so, and make it easy for him to come, and not by signatures and declarations frighten away people who are willing to come.
You will have plenty of indifference. Of course, the strong personality of the clergyman may attract much more than the preaching of sound doctrine. A strong personality will gather round him a large number of people; but if you want to get this Bill through and make it effective you should break down all barriers and try to attract people to your body and not arouse suspicion by showing that you want to hold Parliament at arm's length. My noble 57 and learned friend Lord Haldane objected that this Bill created a new body, namely the Privy Council, who are to advise the Crown. Lord Salisbury says that that is not meant and that they are willing to alter it. I think it can be altered very well but I think he is very unwise to get a Report saying that we recommend the Crown to approve before Parliamentary sanction has been obtained. I press upon you what I think Viscount Finlay said. He made four weighty criticisms, and he said that he hoped he would hear from the supporters of the Bill some indication that they were prepared to accept those criticisms. Unless there is a ready cheerful and large acceptance of those criticisms I believe that you will fail to show that you are in sympathy with the nation as a whole and that you will welcome the criticisms and judgment of the nation, and that you will fail to secure that greater support of the nation in governing your own affairs. My Lords, it is perfectly true that technically and as a matter of mere law this Bill leaves the authority of Parliament to legislate in any direction untouched. But I think what the Bishop of Manchester said is perfectly true, that if you once accept a new method of dealing with. Church affairs simple, speedy, and apparently likely to work satisfactorily, which cannot be put in motion until the Church organisation has expressed itself in its favour, then the old method of legislation initiated in Parliament will die of atrophy, and people will say, If you propose such legislation let the representatives of the Established Church tell us their views.
My Lords, when at the close of the fifteenth Century, at the end of the great Papal schism, the Council of Constance tried to pull things together, they decided if possible to procure the resignation of the three Popes who divided the allegiance of Europe. Delegates from the Council came from Constance to Peniscola where Pope Benedict XIII was ruling over what remained of the Avignon allegiance, and they told him of the decision of the Council. His answer was, and as the noble and learned Viscount would have said it was a proud answer, "The Church is not at Constance, it is at Peniscola"; and he struck the arm of his chair and said, "This is the Ark of Noah," meaning by that the Chair of Peter. My Lords, pressure was put upon hint and he resigned and became a Bishop in Spain.
58 Not long after that another great Council was held at Florence, and the Eastern Church was represented there. The discussions of that Council are most interesting, and I would recommend the reading of them to anyone who has not read them. The result was that union was decreed between East and West and the Bishops went back home and their decision was repudiated by the people at home, who said they preferred to be under the Sultan than the Pope. In both those cases it was proved that the ultimate authority from a practical point of view was in the people. Less than a century later a Spanish theologian, Servetus, wrote a book about the Trinity. It was the time of the Reformation, and lie got into trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities at Lyons; he was condemned by them and was imprisoned. While waiting his punishment he escaped and fled to Geneva. There he fell into the hands of Calvin, who condemned him and he was burnt. My Lords, Servetus literally jumped, in escaping from the bishops, out of the frying pan into the fire. I think it will strike any reflective mind, and I am sure from time to time it must have struck the mind of the noble Viscount, that given the spirit and the principle of Christianity, whether the ecclesiastical body expresses itself in the Papal system, or in the purely Episcopal system, or in the Presbyterian system, or in the Independent system, or any other possible system, it really front a practical point of view comes to the same thing. The authority that is there is the authority of the Church.
This question was raised over the point as to the position of the Church of Scotland. I have never been in very close touch with the Church of Scotland as such, though I know a great many members of it; but I have had the privilege of attending a meeting as a stranger in the Strangers' Gallery of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. It was a solemn Assembly. As far as I understood, it was composed entirely of ordained men; some of them were ministers and others were Elders. There was an important matter discussed before them; there was a very acrimonious difference of opinion, but in the end there was the unanimous decision by agreement. Then they all stood up and sang the Doxology. While I was listening to the noble and learned Lord the other day, it struck me that if he or anyone else, being a member of the 59 Presbyterian Church, had dared to differ from that decision their fate would not have been very much more comfortable than if the decision hail been by one or more Bishops. This question is a very old one. The French Church, for instance, in the fifteenth century, in the year 1438, just after the Papal schism when things were still in confusion, decided that it was going to govern itself as a National Church. They drew up what was called the Pragmatic Sanction, and that Pragmatic Sanction limited the powers both of the Pope and of the State. They were ruled by that until the time of the Reformation in the year 1519, when the First Concordat was drawn up between Francis the First and Pope Leo X. About that Concordat it was stated by a leading legal light in France that the King had given to the Pope what did not belong to him in return for what did not belong to the Pope. Since that time the Church of France until recently was ruled by the system of Concordats, which practically meant an Established Church, and the conclusion which has been forced upon me in listening to this debate is that the two questions, the Church governing itself and being disestablished, are entirely distinct. During the French Revolution, for instance, the very strictly established Church, the Constitutional Church, at the beginning was absolutely under the State; but during the Terror, when the State ceased to care about Churches, that Church governed itself, and after the Terror it organised itself and' went on to the time of the next Concordat when the whole thing was taken over by the State.
A few years ago, when the French Government decided to disestablish the Church, I wrote an article in a French magazine. In that magazine I pointed out that the French Government was doing a very foolish thing, because if they let the thing go now the power of establishing the Church would slip from them for ever. But, my Lords, that is quite a different thing from the State legislating in all the details of a Church's life. I speak now as not being a member of the Church of England. I, like many other members of this House who are not members of the Church of England, have a feeling that there is something incongruous, not to say unfair, in our being, so to speak, governing Elders of the Church of England, because that is what we stand as. We are not ordered for the purpose; we do not hold 60 communion with the Church, and we have no intention of doing so. But at the same time it may be our opinion that the Church of England is the kind of Church that suits the people of England in their present state of mind; and I want your Lordships to realise that, the two questions being absolutely distinct, if we want the Church of England to go on as a useful body, and it certainly is a useful body, for the people of England, we must give it any freedom that it desires.
Now the points that I have touched upon deal with great and heroic subjects which have shaken the whole foundations of Western civilisation. It seems to me, and it seemed to me while I listened to the noble and learned Viscount's very able and most picturesque speech, that we were raising great issues over a matter which really did not get to that point of intensity. The Bill, as far as I understand it, is a very practical one. It simply asks for a certain initiative on the part of genuine members of the Church of England, and we preserve our whole power of veto. As far as I can see—and I look upon it in a practical manner and as an outsider (I insist upon that)—this is quite a fair measure, and I shall give it all the support I can.
§ [The sitting was suspended at eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
§ LORD PHILLIMORE
My Lords, for a thoroughpaced opposition to any reforms in the Church, and for a genuine dread of anything which is likely to increase its spiritual liberty or vigour, commend me to an old Whig. All the dislike to the religious revival under the two Wesleys in the eighteenth century which led to Whig Bishops banning enthusiasm; all the disgust which Sydney Smith, an "old Edinburgh reviewer," as he styles himself, showed to the Cathedral reforms of the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign; all the vigour and prejudice with which Lord Jeffrey, another old Edinburgh reviewer, sought to deny her rights to the suffering Episcopal Church of Scotland; all the application of the "No-Popery" cry by Lord John Russell against such moderate ritual improvements as were begun in the Knightsbridge Churches about the year 1850, seem to have been revived in the breast of the noble Viscount who has moved the Amendment to the Second Reading of this Bill, Instead of dealing 61 with this measure as it is, he sees lurking beyond it the spectre of spiritual independence, and is in deadly fear of what he describes as giving rein to a party in the Church which wants something larger than the view which is presented in connection with this Bill.
I hope to come back to the noble Viscount's speech before I conclude, but for the moment let me consider what the theory of an establishment of a Church by law is. It is not that the law or the State or Parliament makes the Church. A man-made Church or a mart-made religion must come to nought. The Psalmist and prophet have told us what happens to be the fate of those who make their own idols and fall down and worship them. "They that make them are like unto them, and so are all they who put their trust in them." That is not the theory. The theory is that Parliament finds the Church already in existence, claiming its commission from its divine Founder, and, finding it, elects to make it secure in its temporal position. It makes it secure either out of genuine respect for the Christian religion and the belief that it is best taught and embodied in the Church, and the Church has the commission to teach it, or, which is a lower point of view, that which would have been taken by some eighteenth century Divines, because it regards the Church as an important organ of civilisation.
Having once established it, it must consistently he the view of the State that what is desirable is that the Church should perform its functions in the best way, that it should be as useful as possible, discharging valuable services to the utmost benefit of the people of this realm. Having given it temporal status and security, and even power, Parliament is entitled to control the exercise of the power which it gives, to see that it is properly exercised and within due limits, but if it interferes with the administration of the Word and Sacraments, an interference which is expressly disclaimed by our Thirty-nine Articles, it spoils the very delicate organisation which it touches and attempts roughly to handle. The noble Viscount quoted from one of the declarations of the relation of the Church to the State. Let me remind him and your Lordships of another which is in the Thirty-nine Articles, which by Act of Parliament all the clergy and certain other people have to sign and declare their assent to.We give not to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word, or of the Sacraments.62 Ministering means government, regulation, deciding who shall have the Sacrament, and under what conditions, and how the Word shall be preached, and how the Sacrament shall be administered. The only claim is that there is given to the godly Prince power to rule "all states and degrees committed to their charge by God" and to "restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers." That means to lend the civil sword to assist the Church in punishing those who disobey her orders. We need not claim that now. That is the outside claim which the Thirty-nine Articles make for the State, and they are one of the documents on which the position between Church and State rests.
There are people who conceive of the attitude of the State to the Church as one of perpetual vigilance, as if the State was a kind of policeman to keep the Church in order. I have been thinking, and there really is but one illustration which hits the position of those people. It is an old scene in Punch, Two elder sisters are sitting together, and one says to the other, "Go and see what baby is doing, and tell her she must not." That is the view which some people take of the duty of the State towards the Church. Stop her whenever she is trying to do anything, on the assumption that it always must be a usurpation.
The Church at this moment is in this very remarkable and special position. It has constantly happened in the history of this country, particularly in the course of the last century or half century, that the nation has thought through Parliament that great institutions in the country required reform—the universities or public schools or something of that kind; and because they will not reform themselves the State has sent Commissions and passed Acts of Parliament to reform them. Here is the Church asking, not resisting, reform, not requiring Parliament to come in and make reforms, but asking for permission to make reforms herself, and to make them effectively, and then that is grudged—always because of that fear which is expressed in the speech of the noble Viscount and of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. Fear of what? I will not do them the dishonour of supposing that they have some pet abuse which they are afraid will be reformed. I will not do the right rev. Prelate the dishonour of supposing his position in the Church is so uncertain that reform would drive him out. 63 Why is he afraid of reform? Because he thinks that a living Church, in exercising its living functions, may occasionally possibly kick over the traces, may occasionally demonstrate its life in some form which is inconvenient to him. I have no doubt that any legislation of the Church will be not altogether agreeable to some party or other in the Church, particularly to extremists of any party, such as I am afraid I must characterise, from what I know of him, the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I dare say there will be proposals that he will not like; it is quite possible that there will be reforms carried that he will not like; but is that any reason why a self-governing body should not be allowed, in the slang of the day, self-determination to decide that which to the majority, under the most enormous precautions, may ultimately prove to be desirable?
What is the scheme of this Bill? It starts with the premise that reforms are needed. Can any one deny that? Are not the chaplains who have had to adapt their administration to a new set of circumstances during the war aware of it? Are not those soldiers who have—I am now going to use an old Low Church phrase—found religion, and who are returning from the war, full of it? Do they not come to us as older men and talk of it, and tell us that we must make changes? Noble Lords must be deaf if they have not heard those voices. That is my first premise. My second premise has been sufficiently elaborated by noble Lords and right rev. Prelates who have already spoken—namely, that you cannot get those reforms through Parliament as it is now. The noble and learned Viscount says the delay in passing Church measures is due to dissensions within the Church itself. Do those dissensions affect a Dilapidations Act, or a Clergy Pension Act, or an Act to amend the law with regard to pluralities, and so on? Your Lordships have heard what the Bishop of Ely had to say as to the creation of new dioceses. It is not due to any distractions in the Church, it is due to the unwillingness of Parliament and to the inability of Parliament. What more natural? Parliament, being the Parliament of the three Realms and having a large number of Presbyterians from Scotland, of Roman Catholics from Ireland, besides a considerable number of Nonconformists from Wales and England, has a large body of people to whom these matters are perhaps indifferent. It has 64 also a great plethora of business, it is choked with business. How can you expect to get these matters through Parliament unless it is by some miracle of almost universal assent?
What do we want? Do we want to take power away from Parliament? We want to give power to Parliament. We want to give the majority of the nation, as expressed in Parliament, that power which is denied to them by a small minority using the forms of one or other of the Houses of Parliament. No one expects, no one asks, to get any measure of which either House disapproves through Parliament under this Bill any more than under the present state of things. Just as either House can stop a Bill and prevent its becoming law, so either House can by proper machinery—I am coming back to that in a moment—stop any of this legislation. Ali we want is to get through that legislation which the Church desires and of which Parliament at least does not disapprove.
I wish I could see the noble and learned Viscount in his place, but perhaps he will do me the honour of reading what I have said. There is a part of the machinery for this about which he has made a great point—namely, the Ecclesiastical Committee. As I understand it—I am not one of the framers of this Bill, although I have taken a great interest in it—the Ecclesiastical Committee was put in to propitiate the noble and learned Viscount, but it seems to have the effect of irritating him. By all means let it go. I have never liked it and I trust it will go. If the noble and learned Viscount will move in Committee to strike it out, he shall have my best support. What I understand about the Ecclesiastical Committee is this. The Church Assembly passes a scheme; it requires some one on the part of the Government with whom to confer on that scheme. The Government may not wish to accept it in full. They may wish to make amendments. Accordingly the Executive Committee of the Church Assembly meets the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Ministry and they discuss together whether this or that thing shall be altered; then the Church takes it back (the Ecclesiastical Committee does not think it satisfactory) and reproduces it if it will; and, finally, the matter is accepted by the Ecclesiastical Committee, acting on behalf of the Ministry.
As I understand the Ecclesiastical Committee, it is the creature of the Minister of the day and should represent the Minister 65 of the day, but I have always thought that there were two objections to it. The first is that it would be very much better to follow the old constitutional plan and submit the matter to the Crown to be advised upon by Ministers. It seems to me it would be a simpler plan for the two Archbishops to certify to the Home Secretary—who, I understand, is the proper official channel between the Crown and Convocation and between Convocation and the Crown—the scheme which has been passed; for the Home Secretary to lay it before the Cabinet, and for the Cabinet to determine whether or not it shall receive Assent. The Cabinet can appoint any Committee they like to consider and report upon the matter, but, for the purposes of getting the assent of the Government, the Ecclesiastical Committee has always seemed to me to be a kind of fifth wheel to the coach. I do not mind saying that I have another objection. Those with whom I act in Church matters dislike any reference to the Privy Council as connected with ecclesiastical affairs. We fear that that which happened in the Stuart days may happen again, and there may be a notion that the Crown, with its Privy Council, is a kind of ecclesiastical superior.
The noble Viscount will find nobody more delighted than myself to support him in getting rid of this Ecclesiastical Committee. Let it be done quite plainly and quite simply. Let it be the duty of the Archbishops, as the Presidents of this body—which, after all, is Convocation plus a voluntary lay house—to certify to the Crown, through the Secretary of State, that such and such a measure has been passed, and let the Ministry then decide whether or not it is something which they can allow to become law. I heard one noble Lord—I think it was the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe—say that he could find nothing about Convocation in this scheme except the reference in the Bill. If the noble Marquess had looked a little more carefully he would have found that the two Houses of the Clergy are defined as being the Houses of Bishops in Convocation and Clergy in Convocation. The only distinction is that the two Convocations are merged in one, and the Convocations remain, although there is added to them, for the purpose of getting that lay advice about which some noble Lords are so eloquent, a lay house. Let this body in that form pass its scheme; let it certify to the Secretary of State, and let the 66 Secretary of State then lay it before the Cabinet and let the Cabinet advise His Majesty thereupon. Whether or not His Majesty should submit it to Parliament as something which he has approved of or as something which he commends to the consideration of Parliament, is a matter of drafting and detail as to which I have no doubt criticisms, I will not say captious criticisms, may also be made.
Then it is said that you slip these things through Parliament. At this time of day we are familiar with the process of Provisional Orders and with a number of dodges and devices for aiding devolution in these matters and preventing obstruction. Never having been a member of the other House I ought to speak with all respect, but it has always seemed to me, as a lawyer and an outsider, that the rules of that venerable House were not calculated to meet the present state of things, and gave far too much rein to obstruction. All sorts of devices have been drawn by draftsmen to meet the common difficulty of getting matters through the two Houses. It is said, "You will slip these things through." Why? If the Government of the day assent to it they are after all the representatives of the public opinion of the day and the majority of the nation If they do not assent to it they will stop it but to say so, or if by some accident it passes them they will have but to give one day with their majority and put up one of their own people to move the Address, which must be at once executed.
It is said by the noble Viscount Lord Haldane: "I have sat in the House of Commons, and I know how the time of the House of Commons is taken up. There would never be time for an Address." Be it so. Thank God, we have a House of Lords, and there will always be the noble Viscount to be the watch-dog as long as he lives to prevent any improper legislation of this kind. Even the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of Manchester need not be afraid. I assume he finds himself in a minority in the Church Assembly. T should not wonder or be at all surprised if he does. I assume he is very indignant that something is passed by it. He has always the refuge of The Times newspaper, and he and the Lord Bishop of Hereford may write daily or on alternate days, to The Times and urge public opinion and the Government of the day to reject a measure in either House of Parliament. There 67 is no fear that there will be too much legislation. The great fear is that there will be much too little.
Just think for a moment of the obstacles a Bill has to overcome. It has to pass through three definite Houses each having their own views; and if the noble Viscount had sat in the House of Laymen he would have known that it has very distinct and definite views of its own. It has to pass through all these three Houses. At one time in the constitution of Sweden they had four Houses, and the result was that they could get nothing done. We have two Houses of Parliament, and we know that very often we cannot get things done. Here are three Houses, and a Bill has to pass all three and then to be submitted in some form or other to the Minister of the Crown. If the advice of the Ecclesiastical Committee remains it will have to be submitted in two forms on two occasions to the Minister of the Crown, and it has to take its chance that in neither House will a majority he obtained against it.
I wish I thought that there was a chance for many years of much reform being done. Just for a moment let us think of what reforms are wanted. I am not going to repeat the table which the most rev. Primate the. Archbishop of Canterbury gave to your Lordships, and which other Bishops have also given. Let me remind you of another matter. All of your Lordships who go to Church have been during the last four or five years present at service after service which is not that in the Book of Common Prayer. Far be it from me to say, let me not be misunderstood, that there was any breach of the law in conducting these services. But this I will say, that there is a decision of the Privy Council under which if it stands by itself every one of those services are illegal; and if I had the Bishop of Manchester and knew what he had been doing, and knew what he approved, and could bring him before a Tribunal, which would find itself bound by the decision of Lord Cairns in Martin v. Mackonochie, I would get hint convicted over and over again. I do not say that that decision is good law and has riot been modified by others, but that being so just imagine what the position of this Church would have been if it had been obliged to deny to the faithful, those who are anxious, miserable and wretched, some of those services which we have had. Last Sunday's services, next Sunday's services, all the services in celebration of Peace in 68 which we give rein to our national religious enthusiasm—all those upon one construction of the law are illegal.
Is it not desirable that the law should be modified so as to bring the Prayer Book up to date? Yes! even that. Is it not desirable that at any rate there should be reasonable latitude shown? The Crown some years ago sent letters of business to Convocation to suggest its preparing amendments to the Prayer Book. Has not Convocation prepared a new Table of Lessons? Does not everybody know that a new Table of Lessons is very much wanted? Are these things to go to Parliament? Not, I mean, in the sense that Parliament cannot stop them if it disapproves; but are they to be put in the form of a Bill and discussed on amendments in Committee before Parliament? Even in the reign of Charles the Second, or Elizabeth, Parliament disclaimed taking any such action, and passed things en bloc. Nowadays Parliament, I am afraid, would not pass them en bloc. Some member of the other House, or the noble Marquess in this House, would have doubts and difficulties, and it would be impossible to get such legislation as seems to be required for that purpose.
My Lords, it is so amusing this sudden dread of easy legislation. I am one of those, of whom the President of the Council said lie was afraid there were few, who have studied the Blue-books relating to the Government of India, and I find in them a Minute of the Secretary of State dealing with the large power of Rule making to be given to the Governor-General in Council. He meets the suggestion that Parliament will have no control over this, and his answer is that every Rule will have to be laid on the Table of the House, and that either House can present an address against it within thirty days. If it is sauce for the Indian goose is it not sauce for the Church gander? If power of making Rules can be left to the Governor-General of India because Parliament can always control it by an address, why whould not power be given to the Church Assembly to deal with these matters in this way?
After all, the noble Viscount (Lord Haldane) is the fugleman and leader of this opposition. Except the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Manchester there has been no other genuine opponent. There was some criticism from the noble Marquess, and some criticism from Lord Sheffield, 69 and some difference of opinion upon various points. It is that the noble Viscount is a Presbyterian and that he has a dread of prelacy. The noble Viscount forgets that he comes from the other side of the Tweed, and that the Church of England is founded, as the law says, in the estate of prelacy, and that so far from that being a fault in the eye of the law it is a merit, and we are not going to let the noble Viscount make the people of England Presbyterian, and they are not going to have it.
Then I think the main thing that remains is the attack on the lay representation. That takes two forms. The first form is that you have not a real lay constituency; that these people who come are a few ecclesiastically-minded people. I do not know that they are the worse for that; they are spoken of as if it was contemptible. However, it is said these people who come are a few ecclesiastically-minded people who cannot form a genuine constituency. I think that is very much exaggerated. It so happens that I am connected with two dioceses, Oxford and London. I have been on the diocesan conference of both and have taken part in ruridecanal discussions, and I do not think that the people elected are otherwise than representative. In London there is sometimes keen voting. In the country, in small rural parishes such as I know, the people know one another, and are very content, without going through any formal discussions, that A B and C D, whom they know and trust, should be their representatives for the parish. My experience of each conference, particularly perhaps of London, is that it is a most representative body, and representative especially of all shades and schools of religious thought.
But, after all, the difficulty of getting people to come to the poll is no new difficulty. First of all, the more power you give the more likely are you to get people to go to the poll. Did anybody ever try a contested election for guardian of the poor? If they get 5 per cent. to go to the poll on such an election, the poll will probably be a large one. I have read, rightly or wrongly, that at most of the great elections in France, even when there is a very burning question, seldom more than 50 per cent. of the electors go to the poll, and that at any rate on that which is the unpopular side it is extremely difficult to get electors to vote. In the case of this very Parliament, this very House of 70 Commons, with all the new franchises and all the energy and all the excitement about the women having the vote—your Lordships will forgive me if I am not accurate in my figures—my recollection is that at the outside it could be said that less than 60 per cent. of the electors went to the poll.
Anybody who really thinks, as I have often thought of late years, over the whole question of representative government, knows that this question of abstention lies at the root of one of the great dangers of representative government. Representative government is, after all, only the means to an end. It was invented at a time when representatives were the representatives of small corporations and comparatively small bodies; and it is extremely doubtful whether it really applies to get the genuine voice of the people with the present necessarily large electorates. I have often thought, not that I should see it, but there are many people of the age of some of your Lordships around me who will live to see it, that representative government will be dismissed because it is not the right way to get the voice of the nation, and some other device or scheme for popular government will take its place. We have seen some inkling of it in the action of the trade unions in the last few weeks. Be that as it may, my Lords, what I say is that you get a very fair representation of the laity as it is, and that you will get a much fuller representation of the laity when these bodies have this measure. And, after all, the people you want to give a vote to are the people who want the vote and are keen on the subject. That, my Lords, is my answer to the first part of this matter.
The second is a more subtle attack; it is an attack on the limitation of the franchise. I venture to think—after talking to some people—that there is a little misconception about one part of it. I have seen people boggle at the words "which is not in communion with the Church of England." Your Lordships will see that the words are extending, not limiting, words. "Persons of eighteen years of age and upwards, of either sex, resident in the parish, who are baptised and declare that they are members of the Church of England and that they do not belong to any religious body which is not in communion with the Church of England." If the words were "do not belong to any 71 other body," that would be a wider clause than the one which exists.
Why were the words "not in communion with the Church of England "put in? I apprehend them to mean this. People say, "I am a member of the Church Catholic, I am in communion with it, but I cannot say I belong to the Church of England because I belong to the Episcopal Church," or "I belong to the Episcopal Church of America," "I owe allegiance to the Church of Australia." Those words are put in as restrictive words. The other words must stand and justify themselves. Why should people who cannot say that they belong to the Church of England exclusively be welcomed? Why should they have a vote? We want wholehearted people? I object to hyphenated people. I would not have this Bill upon terms that anybody who was not wholehearted with the Church of England should have a voice in this matter. As citizens let them have their voice; as citizens they will have their voice; but as Church people they ought to have their voice only if they have made the choice, and they are for the Church, not those who were on neither side, as described by the poet Dante so vigorously in "The Inferno."
It has been said by some people who are afraid of these bogeys and spectres that there is great fear that this will put the Church of England in the hands of the Sacerdotal party My Lords, if there is a Sacerdotal party, I belong to it. Nay more, I believe I may say that, unworthy as I am, I am at this moment the official representative of it. And I may tell you, my Lords, I have the greatest difficulty in persuading my friends not to oppose this Bill because they are not satisfied with it, because they think it gives apparently too much power to the laity, and because they do not like admitting, even as much as this Bill does, the relations of Parliament and the Church. So far from this being a Bill promoted by the extreme section of the High Church Party, or the Ritualist Party, whatever you may choose to call it, it is a Bill which I, supporting it, have the greatest difficulty in getting them to swallow.
I imagine I am addressing at this moment, in a thin House, people who take a great interest in this matter, and who, probably all of them, belong to the Church of England, and therefore any address to those who are outside it can only reach them 72 through the pages of Hansard or the newspapers. But if I might say a word to them—and with many of them I am very good friends—I would say: If you take no interest in this matter (and you are quite entitled to take no interest in this matter), if you are not Church people, this is outside you. Take it at any rate from us who know that the Church wants to reform itself, and unless you are going to take this extremely Machiavellian line of denying to the Church reform in order that you may say the Church is dead and then destroy it, if you are going to act as loyal citizens and fair public men do your best to allow the Church to reform itself." The Bishop of Manchester, I understand, said, "It is not what the Assembly will get through Parliament that I dread, but what this Assembly will say without going to Parliament that I dread." My Lords, you cannot escape from that. This Assembly is formed. This Assembly exists. The Convocations exist. They have annexed the House of Laymen and supported it, and for all moral effect, for all that moral domination, which he seems to dread, this Church Assembly will pass its condemnations, and pass its opinions, and express its views, whether this Act of Parliament passes or whether it does not. What we have got to consider is whether you will allow the Church to reform itself, and whether for that purpose you will follow the old maxim, peritis credendum est in arte sua. You are to trust to those who know, and not to the man of the street who does not know. We offer you a scheme. There are always some people who are afraid of the Church. I do not know how to deal with such, but for those who are not afraid of the Church, who are not afraid of religious enthusiasm, who believe in quickening spiritual life, I say, We offer you a scheme which enables that to be done which the Church wants, and the nation either wants or at least is content that the Church should have. And we want it for the best and the purest reasons, to promote the cause of religion and morals, and to enable that Church which the State has recognised as the Church of Christ to carry on its work.
My Lords, brief as the observations are that in any event I should have addressed to your Lordships, I shall fortunately be able to make them briefer in view of the remarks which were made by the noble Marquess Lord Crewe 73 on the opening of this debate, and of what was suggested by some subsequent speakers, and even the temptation of reprisals at the opportunity of delivering a sermon to half a score or so of Bishops will not divert me from that intention. But I should not care to give a silent vote upon this Bill, because. I should like to say to your Lordships that my objections to it are not founded upon any hostility to the sentiments which I understood to be expressed in the speech of the most rev. Primate when he introduced the Bill. I listened to that speech, and if I may summarise his argument—no doubt I shall be corrected if I do not summarise it correctly—in a few words what he suggested was this. The Church wants certain reforms. My Lords, I will not dispute that. I am prepared to accept what the last speaker has said, that that, is a. matter of which the Church is the best judge. Parliament is overcrowded with business, and it is in fact impossible to get those reforms, however desirable, through Parliament and therefore they say, "we ask for some measure to enable us to do so." That is a plea for self-government, a plea for the chance of necessary reforms not to be obstructed by the overcrowding of the business of Parliament, and so far as that was the substance of the most rev. Primate's speech—and my recollection is that it was the chief substance of his speech—I confess that I myself am in complete agreement with him.
Self-government, as I think I ventured to say the other day upon another matter, is a thing which we are very largely in favour of in these days for anybody save a Soviet. But the most rev. Primate is too old a Parliamentarian not to know that this Bill differs a good deal from his description of the purpose for which it was devised, and the objects which he said it was desired to effect. Those are matters which I need not dwell on much, because, as I say, the noble Marquess Lord Crewe dealt with them at the beginning, and they have been dealt with also by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Finlay, who expressed many of the sentiments which lead me to object to this Bill as it stands.
What is the Parliamentary position? I do not wish to discuss the Church position in the least. I will accept the hypothesis that the Church is doing a good work, and that the Church ought to have the opportunity of doing so. The fact that I may not be in sympathy with either their 74 dogmas or their beliefs in no way affects my judgment on that point. But the Church is coming now to Parliament, as any other organised body would come, to ask for certain powers; it is coming—I think even the most rev. Primate would not deny this—as a suitor to ask for Parliamentary powers to do certain things. There is a right and a wrong way of approaching Parliament in a matter of that sort. This Bill, it seems to me, from the first line to the last is rather drawn in the sense of presenting a pistol to the head of Parliament, and of saying "We are going to set up an Assembly which we shall call a National Assembly. We will give you no control over the constitution of that Assembly. We will not even put it in the Schedule to the Bill, so that if you want to, find out what this proposed constitution is you must pick up some paper outside Parliament."
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
That is quite wrong. It will be presented to both Houses of Parliament.
I beg the most rev. Primate's pardon. That is a mistake on my part. Not outside Parliament, but in some paper. You must look there and you must find the constitution because it is not in the Schedule of the Bill. It cannot be amended, and therefore the approval of Parliament to it can only be a general approval without any opportunity of looking into details. When bodies come to Parliament to ask for self-government and to ask for power to regulate their own affairs it is the invariable practice to subunit to Parliament the mode of constituting the body which is to be taken to represent, them. We may take as examples of statutory powers things like the General Medical Council, and we may take many other bodies. Very often these powers and this constitution are prepared by a Royal Commission or an inquiry, and are submitted to one of the Departments of State after considerable examination. But the constitution of the body which is to exercise these powers is submitted to Parliament and Parliament has the right to say, and is entitled to say before it gives these powers of self-government, "We think that you have constituted what is on the whole a properly constructed body, from which no one is unfairly shut out, and in which all the interests that have a right 75 to be heard are properly represented. "In this case it seems to me that no guarantee of anything of the sort is given to us.
Then there is the other point which has also been dwelt on, and which seems to me not at all without importance, and that is that, instead of the Provisional Order procedure being followed (and it is quite useless to compare this Bill to anything in the nature of Provisional Order procedure) schemes or measures are being prepared which are then submitted to Parliament for its assent. These measures when prepared are submitted to this curious and anomalous Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council—as to which I rather agree with the remarks of the last noble Lord that it seems to be introducing some new and curious body between Ministers and the Crown; and when submitted to them they are to become law unless Parliament dissents. That is a totally different proposition. The noble Lord who has just spoken has argued that presumably they will have been examined and approved on behalf of the Government of the day, and that that Government therefore would be able with their majority to put them through or they would be able to stop them if they objected to them.
Yes, my Lords. But I think we have a right in Parliament to ask that the rights of minorities may also be preserved. It has not been altogether unknown that, when a Government has assented to certain things and when a Cabinet has decided certain measures are the correct measures, opposition to these measures in the House of Commons and discussion of them in public and examination of them in detail has led ultimately to their rejection and to the conversion of the Ministers proposing them. But no minority in the House of Commons will have an opportunity of bringing forward an Address against these things. Your Lordships heard from the noble and learned Viscount who led the Opposition to the Bill what the state of business is in the other House. It is perfectly true that such an Address might be moved in this House, where I dare say it would not be carried; but where at any rate, carried or not carried, it cannot be said in the same sense to represent public opinion in the country as is the case in the House of Commons.
I am sure that with his usual honesty in these matters and with his considerable Parliamentary experience, the most rev. 76 Primate must to some extent agree with me that it would have been fairer on the whole, and would have had rather less the appearance of trying to get round Parliament, if the scheme had been submitted on a basis of assent instead of dissent—that is to say, so prepared and submitted to this House as to give the necessary opportunity for these measures to be considered and voted upon at some stage before they became law. When I look at the Bill itself I am bound to say that it is drawn in a very curious way. Reference has already been made to legislation by reference to matters which are not in the Bill, and I have already said that I think the Constitution ought properly to be in the Schedule and to be the subject of discussion and amendment. But when I look at Clause 3 and I see what is to happen to these measures in the Ecclesiastical Committee, again I find what seems to me to be rather an attempt at suppression and concealment which I think is undesirable, and which goes very far to create a bad impression in regard to this Bill.
Subsection (1) says that the measures shall be submitted to the Committee with comments and explanations; (2) says that they shall consider it; (3) says that after considering it they shall draft a Report; (4) says that they shall communicate the Report in draft to the Legislative Committee—that is the committee of the National Church Council, I think—but shall not present it to His Majesty until the Legislative Committee signifies its desire that it shall be so presented; (5) says that at any time before the presentation of the Report the Legislative Committee may withdraw the measure from further consideration by the Ecclesiastical Committee. Now, if the Report in draft is not to be presented to His Majesty, it will not I take it be presented to any one, and this may be said to be akin and analogous to the power given to the promotor of a private Bill, when an amendment is put down that he does not like, to withdraw the Bill. But be it noted that the discussion on the Bill, the opposition to the Bill, the points upon which it has failed have there been before the public. In this case that will not be so. It seems to me that the public are entitled to know, and might well know, and still more the laymen of the Church of England are entitled to know, what the rocks have been on which these measures have split, and what the observations of the Privy Council were in the draft Report which the 77 Church takes power to suppress and to keep from the knowledge of the public. That seems to me to be an undesirable provision.
Then there are very curious words—which I really do not want to waste the time of the House in discussing—as to getting His Majesty's assent signified in advance apparently but not finally, and then Parliament having the power of rejecting the measure altogether. Those do not seem to me to be constitutionally respectful proceedings. If it had not been that His Majesty's Ministers advised that the measure should or should not proceed no harm might be done; but I confess that I do not quite understand what the position is of a sort of provisional Royal Assent which is not a Royal Assent, which may not, after all, be given. These provisions seem to me to be unfortunate.
I have here a document which has been circulated in favour of the Bill, and it says that—In answer to the first objection it is a misunderstanding to suggest that the Bill deprives Parliament of all effective control of ecclesiastical legislation.In terms perhaps it does not deprive Parliament of all effective control, but, in fact, I venture to think it does. It deprives Parliament, first of all, of the opportunity of amendment. Now that, I think, may very well be a good thing I think there may be a great deal to be said for the argument of the supporters of the Bill that the Church should be able to present a scheme in the nature of a Provisional Order which either goes through as it is drafted or does not go through at all. I think the avoiding of the opportunity for amendment may possibly have a great deal to be said for it. But the control, as I have pointed out, depends on those who, object to the scheme getting the opportunity of raising those objections. Then this document goes on to say—There is no interference of any kind with the existing rights of the laity with respect to legislation affecting the Church.That is a matter about which other speakers seem to have expressed considerable doubt and, if it be true that in fact the constituency which is to elect this Assembly represents 100,000—as I think I heard mentioned—out of a matter of many millions, it hardly does seem to be giving a full opportunity of expression to those who consider themselves Churchmen and 78 have a right to a say in the affairs of the Church.
It is also stated that the Bill can easily be amended in Committee. I doubt that and, for that reason, personally I should feel bound to vote against the Second Reading. The Bill has been so drawn as to make amendment in Committee almost impossible. It is cast in a form which seems to me to violate all Parliamentary tradition for what I may call subordinate legislative bodies, and I can hardly imagine any amendment in Committee being possible which would not involve the entire recasting of the Bill. If the Church really desires to submit to Parliament a scheme for its self-government and to carry Parliament with it, I should venture to say that far the better course to adopt would be to draw a Bill which frankly adopts the ordinary procedure and to come to Parliament and say, "We propose to set up a body constituted in such and such a way and propose to give it legislative powers, subject always at the end to the assent of Parliament." If that were done, the constitutional objections which have been taken to the measure would be removed, and then I think the full strength of the case, which has been developed by the most rev. Primate and other supporters of the Bill, for giving the Church a chance of affecting reform would have an opportunity of appearing, of which I think it has been rather deprived by the unfortunate form in which the measure is cast.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
My Lords, the difficulty in addressing one's mind to this Bill is to discover whether the question that the Bill should be read a second time is or is not more important than some of the tremendous questions which must arise in Committee. The presentation of this Bill is really a symptom of a most far-reaching evil, the existence of which cannot be denied. No speaker in this debate has attempted to deny it. It cannot be ignored. It extends to other matters outside Church matters. Parliament is over-weighted and overworked and, even if it wished it cannot give the attention to Church matters which the Church has a right to claim for them from Parliament. It is an evil which has, among other things, undermined public confidence in Parliament and especially is it a matter which applies to the needs of the Church.
79 The complaint of the Church is not that it gets from Parliament decisions which are ill-informed or even ill-disposed. The Complaint is that it cannot get a decision at all. The promoter of what is, according to the slang of the day, called a public utility scheme—I will not suggest the indignity of a comparison between such things and the high matters with which the Church is concerned—is sure of his decision under the Standing Orders of the House. He may not like the decision, but he is entitled to get a decision, and I am not content that the Church should stand, and continue to stand, in a worse position than this.
At least, then, the Second Reading of this Bill should be regarded as being due as a matter of justice as the first and only effective protest at this stage against what is an intolerable state of things. There may be amendments desirable, and some may be necessary. I myself fully recognise the need of certain amendments. Personally I should eliminate the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council, and I will tell your Lordships why. It is not merely because the Bill (though it is a serious thing) seems to leave in doubt the question of the mode of appointment and the tenure of the members of this Ecclesiastical Committee. It does not say so but I assume that the appointment of the members of the Ecclesiastical Committee by the Crown will be made on the advice of the responsible Minister of the day. We do not know, an unpopular Minister having possibly "packed" the Ecclesiastical Committee with members hostile to the Church, or possibly belonging to an extreme party, whether in those circumstances it will or will not be possible to get rid of that Committee and replace it by another.
But the reason really why I object to the intervention of this Committee, although I recognise that it is the product of very careful consideration and thought on the part of the extremely competent persons who devised its construction, is that I regard it as one of those fancy schemes which are really in the nature of bad tactics. These attempts to give effect not to the decisions of a representative body but of selected groups of wise and just men partake of the nature of counsels of perfection such as we are accustomed to in The Spectator, not the eighteenth century Spectator, but the one which is more recent and more familiar. It is bad tactics, 80 because you have to come to the House of Commons in the end and you can find no surer way of irritating that House than by suggesting that there is an outside body which understands these matters better than itself.
Another Amendment occurs to my mind, and gives me an opportunity of saying at this stage that, subject to the Amendments which I wish to suggest, I am prepared to say upon a House of Commons experience which is as long as that of any member of your Lordships' House that the Parliamentary securities and safeguards of this Bill are more than ample to prevent anything being done which the public in its widest sense have the smallest objection to. I think it is possible, being too much led away by precedent, that the framers of the Bill have adopted in too much haste the usual period of forty days. Strange as it may seem, that often proves too short a period in which to allow projects of this kind to mature and acquire the force of statutes. Still we must remember that the matters which will be dealt with under this Bill divide themselves into what I would call minor purposes—and I am glad that the noble Viscount who leads the opposition to the Bill has been kind enough to concede that some of these may be recognised as proper matters for special procedure—and I think possibly these minor purposes if specified in the Bill might be allowed to pass after a delay of perhaps not more than forty days.
But when we come to purposes other than minor purposes, your Lordships must see that you very soon come among matters which probably will move profoundly some section of public opinion, not only within but outside the Church. These things cannot be described as so pressing that they will brook no delay whatever in Parliament, and I suggest that there should be some provision in the Bill such as this, that schemes intended to approach matters of doctrine, or limit the power of the Crown, or otherwise tending to alter fundamentally the constitution of the Church—I do not assume for a moment that any such attempts are going to be made, but I suggest that schemes of that kind ought to be presented at or before some definite date in the year, and not be allowed to mature until probably the next Prorogation of Parliament, namely, at the end of the Session then about to begin. I do not believe that that would be 81 an excessive delay to intervene as a security and safeguard against its being possible to say "you are evading parliamentary control."
The noble and learned Viscount adopted in his opposition to this Bill a very familiar method. He first assumed a lot of dreadful intentions on the part of the promoters, without a particle of proof, and then with equal hardihood he assumed that these were going to be the inevitable effects of the Bill. Neither do the intentions exist nor will the effects follow. The noble Viscount had two classes of fears and terrors which he attempted to put before the House. The first was that the Church Assembly was going to be captured and ridden by what may be called the high-fliers. I do not know where you meet these gentlemen, reverend or otherwise, so burning with the desire to increase the powers of the episcopal bench. I do not meet them among the right rev. Prelates whose acquaintance I have the honour to enjoy, much less do I meet them among the High Church Party, to which I do not belong but the members of which I occasionally have the privilege of meeting. The noble and learned Viscount terrifies us with a vision of earnest minded. Churchmen being driven with staff and wallet out into the Wilderness while others enjoy the comforts and luxuries of being inside the building. It is a terrifying picture, but you need not fear that any House of Commons is going to allow anything which is going to give effect to pretensions so monstrous.
The noble and learned Viscount also, of course, treated us—and no one is more qualified than he—to an historical retrospect, beginning with the Statute of Provisors in 1531—indeed he went further and took us back to the Byzantine days. Founding himself upon that he came down to the Mackonochie judgment in 1881 and said "Good Heavens! the Royal supremacy is in danger. The King's Courts will no longer be able to restrain any Church Court which proceeds to put the pretensions of the Church too high." Who is attacking the Royal supremacy? Where is the attack upon the Royal supremacy in this Bill? I will tell the noble and learned Viscount what the attack is and where the complaint is. The attack is upon that body and the complaint is against that body which has constituted itself the heir-at-law of the Royal supremacy and has proceeded to abdicate that supremacy 82 and to refuse to exercise that supremacy to the detriment of the Church with no better excuse than inertia or something worse. That is a state of things in which the noble and learned Viscount may be content to acquiesce. But others who have the welfare of the Church more at heart are certainly not inclined to acquiesce.
The noble Viscount's second fear is that the Parliamentary control of the Church by which the Royal supremacy is still enforced is somehow going to be evaded by a trick of procedure. He says you will never find time in the House of Commons to move an Address to dissent from any of these schemes of the Church Assembly. "Before Easter," he says, "you have financial business; after Easter you have the press of legislation. It will be a case of your time or your life if the Government refuses to give a day to the discussion." My Lords, that will not be more so in the case of these things than it is in the case of other matters to which the like procedure now applies. Take education schemes. The Education Code of the year has to submit to very much the same procedure, with a difference only that that scheme has the Government at its back, and the Government are bound to find a day for it. But it is at the mercy of any one who chooses to move an Address, if he can get the majority of the House to agree with his Address, dissenting to the scheme. That is not more the case than it is with regard to Private Bills. They have to depend upon the chance, assuming that they meet with anything like a Second Reading opposition, of getting a night fixed for a debate, beginning certainly at an inconvenient hour and not extending to too great a quantity of time. But there the House finds time; feeling, of course, that the alternative to doing so would be the gross injustice which would ensue to petitioners with their schemes of public utility or seeking powers for the acquisition of land by compulsion, and in that way the difficulty is got over.
But I can tell Earl Russell, who spoke last, that he is quite wrong when he supposes that one of those schemes, after being presented in the manner provided for by the Bill, will not have to run the gauntlet of the moving of an Address of dissent. It will be open to any private Member at the proper time to move such a dissent, and it will not be the least necessary for the Government to take up 83 that Motion or to initiate it; and I may tell you here, as I understand the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and their rules of procedure at the present time, there is a. special provision for bringing on these Motions which arise out of matters provided for by an Act of Parliament, such as the matters arising under this Bill would be. It is true that it has to come on at an inconvenient time, and it is true very often that not much time is available fur the actual length of the debate. But that, my Lords, does not make in favour of an easy passage of these things. On the contrary, it is a disadvantage to them. It is a thing which will make the House of Commons less patient with them and less inclined than it would be already to pass any scheme which was unreasonable in itself.
The right rev. Prelate who spoke in opposition to this Bill from the other side of the House said he did not know of any Bills of late which had been introduced for the purpose of amending the constitution or matters which concern the Church. It makes one ask where the right rev. Prelate has been all these years. I myself am conscious of heavy volumes on the shelves of your Lordships' Library and the Library of the other House which are made thicker and more weighty by the Bills which have had to be dropped relating to patronage and the creation of new dioceses, the enforcement of discipline among the clergy, and other matters vitally concerning the Church. All I can say is that the number of those Bills which have been proposed and had to be dropped is much greater than the number which have had the good fortune to be passed.
Based upon my Parliamentary experience, I assure you that you can safely adopt the procedure which is suggested by this Bill for giving the House of Commons the necessary control ever Church legislation. The safeguards are not by any means small. The only question is whether they are not such as will make the passage of these schemes quite unnecessarily difficult. And in the end, I am convinced that if you pass the Second Reading of this Bill and make certain amendments in it, you will have done that which, while it will not interfere in the least with any rights of parishioners, or rights of citizens, or rights of Churchmen, will have provided ample security that the liberty you give to the Church shall be, neither misused nor used for a bad purpose.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD
My Lords, it is with very great regret indeed that I have come to the conclusion, on the whole, that I cannot vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, because I believe its defects to be of such a character as probably cannot be removed in Committee. That is a point on which I will readily defer to persons of greater Parliamentary experience than myself. Reluctantly, I think the criticisms which have been made—and to some extent admitted to be true—upon this Bill can hardly be dealt with satisfactorily in Committee; and I confess that in the Amendment of the noble Viscount opposite, which I shall reluctantly vote for, there is one phrase which I rather regret. It is the phrase concerning inquiry, something suggestive of a Royal Commission. We very much need some reform in this matter; the need for some means of speeding up reforming legislation with regard to the Church is so admitted that I very much regret the delay which the appointment of a Royal Commission would almost certainly be productive of.
One thing in the course of this debate has filled me with a great deal of satisfaction. I believe, in the light of the criticisms which have been made in this House on this Bill, that it would be perfectly easy for its promoters very readily to form a measure which would substantially accomplish their purpose—I do not say their whole purpose—which at any rate would appreciably quicken the pace of reforming legislation, to draw a measure of that kind and character which all of us would accept with the greatest satisfaction. However, I am not going to further treat of the Bill in its general aspects at this hour, and I am sure your Lordships will excuse me if I narrow myself down to the consideration of a single point on which I think there is something more to be said. Your Lordships, I am sure, will not think that, it is merely a Committee point; it seems to me to be fundamental in regard to this Bill. Curiously, being of such a fundamental character, it is to be looked for not in the Bill, but in the First Schedule to the Schedule to the Appendix to the Address mentioned in the Bill. Of course, I am referring to that declaration which has often been quoted in this debate, the declaration which a member of the Church is required to sign before he can be enrolled in that body of laity who are to be given a voice, effective or otherwise, in the control of Church affairs.
85 The words to which I am referring are these: "I am not a member of any religious body which is not in communion with the Church of England." The requirement that a person should sign that formula is, I am persuaded, likely to have an effect which the authors of this Bill never contemplated, and which I believe they would very much regret. It is aimed, I suppose, at shutting out those who live part of their time in Scotland and part in England, and who are Presbyterians in the one country and Episcopalians in the other, and another handful of people, not very numerous I should think anywhere, who are so to speak equally interested in Church and Chapel, going to Church in the morning and Chapel in the evening, or vice versa, and are interested in the affairs of both bodies. I cannot conceive why it was thought necessary to exclude these not very large nor very dangerous classes of people. It seems to me an unwise and a. petty and an illiberal thing to do, but that is not the point on which I desire to dwell.
I want to ask your Lordships to consider how this declaration affects persons who are members of the Church of England, and of that Church only, and who strongly dissent from, as they are entitled to dissent from, the view implied by the phrase "not in communion with the Church of England." I submit to your Lordships that a person who does dissent from that view cannot with honesty or straight-forwardness sign that declaration. I mentioned this matter not long ago to one of the supporters of this Bill who would describe himself as a High Churchman, and he assured me that I was making much of some finicking and trivial point, and that he, as a lawyer, could assure me that my conscience might be easy in signing this declaration. I am afraid that it would not be. I have tried hard to put out of my mind any trivial and foolish or affected scruples in this matter. Holding the particular views that I do, rightly or wrongly—I am not going to say that they are right—I do not see that I could sign that declaration. I have talked to a large number of earnest Church people who share the same view. You may call them lax or liberal if you choose, but they hold the same views that I do in regard to Nonconformists. Every one of them to whom I put the point agreed with me, and said that they would be absolutely unable to sign that declaration, not because they are members of any religious body save the 86 Church of England, but because the terms of the declaration necessarily imply a belief which they reject.
May I illustrate it? Supposing some fanatical opponent of this Bill were to come to me and say "I hope you are deeply interested in the conspiracy, we will say of Lord Selborne, to lead the Church over to Rome," what would be my honest answer to that man? "I am not implicated in any such conspiracy," would not be the answer. The only proper answer would be "Rubbish, there is no such conspiracy." Similarly, in this case, you challenge me to say, "Am I a member of a body which is not in communion with the Church of England?" meaning manifestly thereby to point at the Presbyterian Church of Scotland or the Free Churches of this country. While I am not a member of any one, nevertheless I cannot sign a declaration because by doing so I am admitting your view that these people are out of communion with me and the Church that I belong to.
I think your Lordships may fairly take it from me that there are a considerable number of people who entirely object to signing any such declaration on the ground that I have stated. I can show your Lordships in a moment that the people whom you are in effect excluding from lay membership of the Church by this test will be an important and considerable section of the Church of England, with whom it is very likely the promoters of this Bill totally disagree, but whom, I am quite sure, the promoters do not want, to part company with or drive out of fellowship with themselves.
There are, for example, those among us who, without thinking the matter of very great practical importance would on principle greatly resent that a practice should grow up of debarring Nonconformists from communicating in our churches, should they be so disposed. There are those among us to whom it occasionally happens to have a Nonconformist friend staying in our own houses over Sunday, and who are glad if he accompanies them to Communion in our Church. There are those of us again who in the course of travel in other countries find themselves in situations in which it seems the natural Christian course of duty to communicate in some church that is not their own church, nor an Episcopal church at all. I am sure you do not intend to do it, but you are shutting the whole of those classes of people out of 87 lay membership of the Church for the purpose of voting for this representative body. And along with them I submit you are also excluding that extremely large and important class of people who are and always have been members of the Church of England but who really have never thought about this question at all and entertain no precise theory as to the degree of theological disfavour with which they ought to regard Nonconformists.
Briefly my submission is that you have adopted here a test which cannot honestly be taken by any man who is not prepared to submit himself to a view concerning our relations with Nonconformists which is not by any means the view of the whole of the Church of England and which I am quite sure noble Lords who support this Bill, though it may be their own view in many cases, do not wish to impose upon other Churchmen.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned until to-morrow.